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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  February 11, 2016 1:30am-2:01am PST

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narrator: today on "earth focus," killing elephants for ivory fuels crime, corruption, and terrorism. coming up on "earth focus." narrator: for more than two million years, wild elephants have been living in the savannas and forests of africa. they were once plentiful, as
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many as five million on the continent back in the 1940s. african elephants are the largest land animals on earth and one of the most intelligent. their brain is similar to humans in structure and complexity. they feel emotions like grief and joy. they learn, play, display compsion andltruism. so expertsay they en have a sense of humor. their primary predator is man, and because of man, they may soon be extinct. thornton: no one really even knows how many elephants are left in africa. some people think itay be as few as 300,000 animals, so w ght be ling 1/6 the continental population of africa's elephants every year. peters: in many countries in africa, the elephant is already ecologically extinct. [gunshots, elephant trumpets]
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narrator: every 20 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks. the reason: greed. the price of ivory has skyrocketed. raw ivory sells for as much as $3,000 per pound on the black market, but the cost for humanity is unfathomable. elephants may be gone in 10 years. ruggierothe problem begins very simply with demand. narrator: and china drives the demand for ivory. knights: china now is estimated to be 70% of the world's ivory market. there is a tradition of ivory carving, but also, of course, the massive growth of the chinese economy. narrator: around 300 million people make up china's middle class today. that's more than the population of the united states, and they are looking to spend their money on luxury goods.
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ivory has particular appeal because of its long history in china. it has been carved there for more than 2,000 years, expressing many core chinese cultural and traditional values. knights: i think in some cases, people are speculating that ivory is almost like a currency that they can invest in for the future. alie: you walk through beijing and in some of the stores you see ivory mantelpiece, exquisite carvings going for like 50,000 u.s. dollars, 60,000 u.s. dollars. knights: but in addition to that, you have things like chopsticks, bangles that people wear, small carved items. all these things are made from ivory, and unfortunately they are still in popular demand in china. roberts: the united states of america is probably the number two destination for illegal ivory after china. narrator: europe, vietnam, thailand, malaysia, and the philippines also have substantial illegal ivory markets. knights: ivory has been used
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in the same way that blood diamonds has been used in west africa. it's been used by insurgent and militant groups as a source of financing. narrator: one group cashing in on illicit ivory is joseph kony's lord's resistance army, or lra, which sprang to life in 1988. kony is an aggressive, messianic warlord wanted by the international criminal court for crimes against humanity. hutson: kony leads a fierce band of a couple hundred remaining fighters who originated from northern uganda, but who now predate throughout congo and central african republic up into the sudans, and they commit mass atrocities. they'll take their machetes and systematically take apart a mother and feed her to her children. narrator: the lra killed tens of thousands, displaced almost
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2 million people, and abducted over 60,000 children. they turned girls into sex slaves and boys into child soldrs. the lra supports such atrocities by poaching elephants and trading ivory. much of kony's ivory comes from garamba national park in the democratic republic of the congo. hutson: garamba is considered to be at the end of nowhere. it is one of the last wild habitats. narrator: the lra raids the 1,900 square mile park with impunity and trades ivory for arms, ammunition, food, and cash. their trading partners include the armed forces of sudan. sudan is a country designated by the u.s. government as a state sponsor of terrorism. hutson: one particular former lra fighter said that he was with a group who shot six
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elephants on kony's orders, and they hand carried the tusks through central african republic. and they went to the kafia kingi enclave on the border of sudan, and there in the presence of joseph kony, they sold the ivory to a sergeant in the sudan armed forces. narrator: garamba is a converging point for military units from several countries looking to kill elephants. hutson: so you've got the lra rebels, you've got armed forces from sudan, from south sudan, and from uganda all competing with fardc, the congolese forces to poach the last wild elephants that remain in the park. narrator: these units come armed with satellite phones, night vision goggles, and ak-47s. elephants are also shot from helicopters, as was the case with 22 elephants killed in garamba in march 2012. hutson: we do know for certain
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that the elephants were killed from a helicopter used as shootinplatform they shot the elephants through the top of the head. theyirst herd them, and elephants instinctively group in a circle, with the babies and juveniles in the center and the adults facing outward for prection. and that's how their bodies were found. narrator: more than 90% of elephants in garamba park have already been killed as a result of massive and continuous assaults. ruggiero: it's well understood that elephants have a sense of mortality. they understand that a carcass of, say, one of their family members has had its trunk cut off and its tusks are no longer there. they will go to an elephant
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that's died. if the tusks are there, they wl removehem fromhe carcass and pass them around frequently and carry them off into the bush, for example. so they're cnizant. theyre commucative. they're sentient. they're extremely intelligent. they have a great memory. it's not just a cliché. so they suffer. roberts: elephants are hugely matriarchal herds. you've got gndmotherand daughters, granddaughters, aunts, nieces all living together. the minute you allow those herds or individuals in those herds to be killed, you're decimating the entire fabric of that elephant society. ruggiero: usually the larger animals are killed for ivory rst. the social unrest, the disturbancof theiromplex social systems is completely upset, so even if there are numerically several hundred elephants in an area, when a biologist looks at them, they frequently see juveniles and sub-adults running around
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aimlessly and without leaders. narrator: what is likely the worst elephant massacre on record took place in cameroon's bouba n'djia national park in early 2012. arabic speaking horsemen from sudan, armed with ak-47s, machine guns, and rocket propelled grenades killed 650 elephants, more than 60% of the park's population over a bloody three-month period. among e dead we newbor, calves, and adults, many still alive as their tusks were hacked off. alie: we were the first ngo on-site in the park when the animals were slaughtered. the evidence gathered in the cameroon case was linked to sudanese militia, i.e. the janjaweed. we had some very specific links: the use of weaponry, the use of ammunition that was coming out, the satellite imagery that showed these folks
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coming in on horseback in the park, slaughtering these animals, and then making their way back out. [shouting orders] narrator: the janjaweed, called devils on horseback, are a notorious militia backed by the government of sudan. insurgents for hire, they are associated with the genocide in darfur that claimed almost half a million lives and displaced more than a million people. ruggiero: they've been raping and pillaging, killing elephants, being brigands on horseback for 150 or 200 years or maybe longer. as long as there is recorded history in the area, they've been doing this. kalron: there's an obvious link to the fact that they are able to ride thousands of kilometers and pass countries, obviously having some sort of local support in some way, either paying them or actual accomplices. ruggiero: i saw and witnessed personally in the central african republic that the janjaweed were going far out of their way to accumulate as much
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ivory and rhino horn as they could to support them, to make money. kalron: everyone's talking about them, about these horsemen riding through the sahel reaching areas thousands of kilometers from their house and coming back with their loot. we have seen clear evidence of that happening. we've collected casings linking specific scenes of poaching in three different countries to sudan. narrator: in addition to cameroon, shell casings were found in the central african republic and chad, all linked to sudanese paramilitary and military groups. and these groups are also killing park rangers. sudan's military is alleged to have murdered six rangers in chad's zakouma national park in 2012. hutson: that murder was accomplished by a joint force of the sudan armed forces and the sudan central reserve police unit known as abu tera.
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the park rangers, being good muslims, went out to pray one morning at sunrise, and this joint rce execed them inn infant style. narrator: the rangers in zakouma are among the 100 or so rangers killed protecting elephants in africa each year. vira: these guys put their lives on the line, and many of them, until very recently, were operating with, you know, broken down rifles, no pensions, no mechanisms, no clear mechanisms in place to take care of your family if the primary breadwinner dies. shelley: terrorists are operating as businessmen these days, and they are seizing targets of opportunity. narrator: al qaeda affiliate al shabaab is an example. kalron: al shabaab is built out of former warlords. their profession is trafficking. if it's not in ivory, then it's
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in weapons, in narcotics, in fuel, in goods, in timber, in charcoal. narrator: the u.s. designated terror group, based in somalia, was responsible for the september 2013 attack on the westgate mall in nairobi that killed 67 people, and for the death of over 140 in the april 2015 attack on kenya's garissa university. nir kalron investigated the links between al shabaab and illicit ivory trade in 2012. kalron: al shabaab was controlling the ports of kismayo, marca, and big parts of mogadishu, including access to the port through its agents. evidence from kenya suggests the local and regional poachers used that access. we'd seen evidence from ports in marca and kismayo of ivory, large stocks of it, and had collected evidence from individuals that testified to
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having profited from that trade with al shabaab agents. knights: al shabaab did control various ports in somalia where the ivory is being shipped out of, and they would basically charge a tax for anything being shipped out. narrator: al shabaab levies a 2% to 7% tax on ivory that passes through areas they control, making about $250,000 a year from ivory. insurgent groups and armed forces units are not the only poachers. local villagers, who know the terrain, are also involved, and they are increasingly recruited by well-financed, organized criminal groups. roberts: when you kill an elephant and you sell that ivory tusk in the bush, it's only going to be maybe $25 or $100. the might a 500% rkup by the time it gets to the consolidating point for export, and then a 4,000% markup by the time it reaches the marketplace. hutson: it's the middlemen and
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the people on the other end, on the demand side, who really are becoming rich off of this. vira: you know, even though the poaching might happen at sort of the bush level in a very gritty way, very quickly you start moving up the chain to find very significant, powerful, and wealthy people controlling the trade. peters: so you don't see animals killed on spec. there's always a buyer in place and the financing in place for it. and we see very, very little opportunistic killing of animals. narrator: the lure of high profits, easy money with little risk, makes ivory an attractive target for organized criminal syndicates. vira: they're well integrated into the international financial system, into the international transportation systems. they are able to move significant amounts of product across very, very long distances, and they're well integrated with other forms of transnational organized crime. shelley: the same people who are doing this are
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international drug traffickers, they're international human traffickers. they have a long time experience in evading law enforcement, moving goods, having key facilitators of money and transport. vira: they know where they need to go, they have buyers in place, and they're able to poach at really an industrial scale. peters: that's a highly organized, highly efficient organized crime network that is putting that type of operation together. narrator: between 2009 and 2014, organized criminal networks moved an estimated 170 tons of ivory, the yield from a quarter of a million dead elephants. vira: we estimate that there probably are less than, you know, 25 of these networks operating globally that account for a very large proportion of the trade. narrator: one of them is the xaysavang network, reported to be one of the largest transnational criminal networks
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to traffic wildlife. the u.s. department of state offered a $1 million reward, the first bounty ever placed by the agency for information leading to the dismantling of the network. vira: xaysavang is based out of laos and is widely suspected that they have the complicity of senior laotian government officials, which is part of the reason why, despite a bounty, despite all the attention, despite all the investigative reporting, not very much is being done to really disrupt that network. narrator: central and eastern africa are the current hotspots of elephant poaching. africans are the trigger pullers and transporters of the ivory from the bush to urban centers, where it's prepared for shipment from ports like mombasa, dar es salaam, and zanzibar. asian criminal syndicates move the ivory through various transit points en route more often than not to china. alie: we see hiding of ivory under coffee, under avocados. these methods to conceal these
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products are very sophisticated. roberts: you might have a legal shipment in a giant shipping container that has 20 tons of capacity, and that 20 tons of capacity is filled with 18 tons of dried seaweed or stones or cashew nuts, a perfectly legal inteational mmodity,ut two tonsf ivory smuggled i alie: to undertake this type of transaction requires bribery, requires paying people off at each link of the chain. thornton: you can't have that nd of pohing andhat amount of ivory moving out of a country unless you have some very big players that are right near the top that are protected people that protect the people that are doing all that destruction. vira: it's not uncommon for ministers, it's not uncommon for local governors to be involved. hutson: corruption that extends all the wato the psidential vel. the nds of corruption at
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couldn't happen without presidential authorization from the presidents ofongo and sudan and other countries as well. shelley: and therefore, there's no reason that the police will investigate this crime or that the courts will be prosecuting and judging any of the really high level traffickers. so in most cases, the individuals are going scot-free because of high-level corruption. narrator: only an estimated 10% of traffickers ever get caught, and for those that do, penalties are usually small. massive numbers of elephants have been slaughtered for ivory before. knights: 1970 and 1989, african elephant numbers fell from 1.2 million to around 450,000. narrator: that was more than half of the entire elephant population of africa
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at that time. in the mid-1980s, the environmental investigation agency, or eia, an independent nongovernmental group, uncovered evidence about the scope of the ivory trade. they filmed secret chinese ivory carving factories in dubai. raw ivory was being partially carved there to avoid export permit costs when it was shipped to asia. thornton: there were 60 carvers working 16 hours a day carving ivory, and there were bags of ivory stacked 10 feet high. and those operations in three years went through 1,000 tons of ivory. narrator: the eia identified three chinese and one kenyan syndicate involved in the operation. these findings helped build momentum for the 1989 international ban on ivory trade by the convention on international trade
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in endangered species, or cites. roberts: when you have a global, uniform, and unequivocal prohibition on the tradin elepht ivory, a numberf thingsappened. the pric for ivo dropped because the market dries up, and the market dries up because it becomes taboo to have this illegal product. and when the market dries up, there's a disincentive to poach elephants and kill them for the ivory. narrator: after the cites ban, elephant populations began to stabilize. thornton: and everyone said there's elephant babies everywhere. and it was like a genuine miracle, where the dramatic decline of these magnificent animals was stopped. roberts: but what happened after that was that southern african governments, namely botswana, namibia, and zimbabwe put incredible pressure on cites parties to reopen a quote/unquote limited ivory ade, alling stocile sale from stockpiles in those three
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african governments to one approved trading partner, japan. thornton: that trade from the southern african countries to japan started to lead to an increasen poachi again. narrator: in a controversial move in 2008, cites authorized a second sale of stockpiled ivory to japan and china. once china became involved, poaching skyrocketed. thornton: the allowing sale by cites of legal ivory to japan and china, all the evidence shows that was a catastrophic blunder. narrator: ivory in african government stockpiles is confiscated, or comes from culled or naturally deceased elephants. its sale is legal, but legal ivory creates a stream of commerce in which illicit ivory, or ivory from poached elephants conceals itself. the loophole in cites was that
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it only banned international ivory trade, not domestic trade or trade within a country's borders. thornton: what happens is that the smugglers can easily get the ivory into china or japan, and its de facto legal. poe: these terrorists kill animals so they can get money to kill people. the combination of these two evils, the killing of endangered species and innocent civilians to further radical terrorism is an international threat. roberts: there is a real groundswell of concern about this issue the likes of which i haven't seen in the 23 years i've been doing this work. prce willi: it is ong that cldren gring up i untries lnerableo wildfe crimere losintheir bihrights order tfuel the eed of iernation crimals. clinton: this is not just about elephants. it is about human beings. it is about governments trying to control their own territory, trying to keep their people safe, as well as protect their cultural and environmental
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heritage. narrator: wild aid, a nonprofit conservation group, is working to curb consumer demand for ivory. a number of international celebrities joined the campaign. norton: if you buy elephant ivory, you may be part of a criminal gang. a gang of ruthless killers. [gunshot] a gang osmuggler [gunot] and corrupt officials. and because you're paying them, that makes you the boss. when the buying stops, the killing can, too. narrator: wild aid features celebrities like chinese basketball legend yao ming to educate the chinese public about ivory. knights: well, the chinese government has been very supportive. we've been very lucky that cctv, which is the main government run tv station in
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china, has run our messages in prime time. hutson: when they're surveyed, up to 70% of chinese consumers say they didn't know that for them to buy an ivory trinket means that an elephant actually has to die. and once they learned that fact, most of them say they will no longer buy ivory. narrator: must africa's elephants go extinct? saving them calls for a multifaceted solution. hutson: we have to look at the demand side, at the supply side. weave to cperate internationally. we have to involve businesses d statecft and pvate citizensnd ngos d law enforcement, and we have to educate peop worldwi that your ivory trinkets mean that an elephant has to die.
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thornton: we need to go back to the total ivory ban, including complete ban on domestic trade in china and japan. if china and japan banned domestic ivory trade today, poaching will be going down by next week. that's how big the demand is there, and closing that demand is the number one way to help save and protect africa's elephants.
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[cheers and applause] naomi: hey. hi, everybody. um, so, we're actually going to start with a little video, uh, sort of trailer for the book, if you don't mind. so roll the trailer. in december 2012, a complex system scientist walked up to the podium at the american geophysics union to present a paper.

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