When African elephants are killed for their tusks, where does the ivory go? According to a new — and ingenious — investigative report by National Geographic that followed the paths of two fake elephant tusks as they traveled through Africa, the answer to this question reveals a disturbing, violent truth about the illegal ivory trade.
“Locals, including poor villagers and unpaid park rangers, are killing elephants for cash — a risk they’re willing to take because even if they’re caught, the penalties are often negligible. But in central Africa, as I learned firsthand, something more sinister is driving the killing: Militias and terrorist groups funded in part by ivory are poaching elephants, often outside their home countries, and even hiding inside national parks. They’re looting communities, enslaving people, and killing park rangers who get in their way.”
“I interviewed a number of ex-soldiers with the Lord’s Resistance Army, and they described hand-carrying ivory tusks on their shoulders 600 miles through incredibly dense jungle from Garamba National Park into the Central African Republic into … a little area called the Kafia Kingi enclave, and there, they told me, is where Joseph Kony is today. And there, they told me, ‘We trade the ivory with Sudanese armed forces. We are trading ivory with the military of Sudan, exchanging it for arms and medicine,’” Christy told Fresh Air.