US colonel caught ivory-handed in Nairobi
David McNevin, the former US defense attaché in Nairobi, was arrested earlier this month when he was found in possession of twenty-one pieces of ornately carved elephant ivory jewelry and ornaments, boarding a flight from Nairobi to the Netherlands. He was fined 30,000 Kenyan shillings, or $345 U.S. dollars, the maximum punishment under Kenya’s outdated wildlife law.
It is particularly disheartening that McNevin was caught just hours after President Obama pledged to fight illegal wildlife trafficking during his recent visit to Africa, saying: “The entire world has a stake in making sure that we preserve Africa’s beauty for future generations.”
The illicit trade in wildlife is running rampant, and elephants, rhinos and other majestic creatures are falling victim to this epidemic.
IFAW has worked for years to combat wildlife crime, and limit its impact on already fragile communities. We have found that illegal wildlife trade not only negatively affects endangered species and ecosystems, but it is also an increasing threat to national and global security. IFAW recently released our findings in a report entitled, “Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade.”
Through our research, IFAW verified that illegal wildlife trade has been linked to drug trafficking, money laundering, organized crime groups, rebel groups and militias (such as Al-Qaeda and the Lord’s Resistance Army). Illegal wildlife trade is worth at least $19 billion per year, and is ranked the fourth largest international illegal activity (after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking).
As a former representative of the U.S. in Kenya, Mr. McNevin should have had the foresight to know that smuggling illegal wildlife not only reflects poorly on the U.S., it undermines the current global effort to put a stop to wildlife crime. However, his arrest and insignificant fine highlight how much work there is left to be done to halt illegal trade, which continues to put our security and the security of the globe at risk. Wildlife crime is dangerous for wildlife and people and it’s time we started taking it seriously.