ELITE British soldiers are being drafted in to help frontline forces fighting Al Shabaab
The Al Qaeda-linked group is funding its terrorist activities selling so-called “blood ivory” and rhino horn on the black market. Every month it is thought to earn the Somali terror group £400,000.
The profits allow them to pay jihadist fighters £75 a week to carry out atrocities such as the one which left 67 dead in the Westgate shopping centre attack in Nairobi.
Tackling poaching as well as highlighting the global impacts of wildlife crime and habitat destruction has become the driving force of Britain’s new initiative, If They’re Gone.
Prince Charles and Prince William revealed the increasing threats to some of the planet’s most iconic creatures when they hosted a summit at Clarence House earlier this year. Delegates were told the illegal wildlife trade was now worth £12billion a year.
On the platform was Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who visited Kenya last week to commit British military support to Africa in its struggle to protect its wildlife.
Rhino poaching alone has increased by 3,000 per cent in recent years, with one of these gentle animals now being killed every 11 hours. A rhino horn is worth more than its weight in cocaine to terror groups or crime syndicates.
The price of “blood ivory” has seen poaching gangs resort to increasingly desperate tactics, such as poisoning watering holes, to kill elephants.
As many as 38,000 will die for their tusks this year.
In the coming weeks, 25 British troops will give Kenya’s rangers expert training. It is greatly needed, at least 60 Kenyan rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Mr Paterson said: “Illegal poaching is having a devastating effect on some of the world’s most iconic species.
“By joining forces with those on the frontline in Kenya, our armed services will be able to provide training and support to the courageous people who put their lives on the line every day.”
Brigadier Duncan Francis, the UK’s defence attache in Nairobi, added: “This is an excellent example of the British Army taking positive action on an issue close to many people’s hearts.
“The 25 soldiers will be making an immense contribution to securing the future of some of the world’s most endangered species.”
The Government is also launching another wildlife campaign tomorrow, this time highlighting the desperate plight of the orang-utan.
As few as 60,000 of these gentle creatures survive in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, their habitat destroyed as trees are felled to make way for the palm oil industry.
The oil is used widely in food and cosmetics. Illegal logging, fires and drainage have all taken their toll.
The flesh of these apes, which share 96 per cent of their DNA with humans, is also prized as bushmeat. Others are seized to be sold on as pets. They often die in misery in captivity.
Last week three men were arrested by the Indonesian Natural Resources Conservation Agency after pictures emerged of an orang-utan being eaten. Villagers said they found the ape after it was shot. They held up its hands, all that was left after the bloody feast.
Tomorrow Environment Minister Lord de Mauley will launch the latest If They’re Gone campaign as part of Orang-utan Awareness Week.
Lord de Mauley said: “Everyone can make a difference by buying products made with sustainable palm oil.”
Orang-utan Awareness Week is organised by the Orang-utan Foundation. Its director Ashley Leiman said: “The plight of the orang-utan is very serious.
“More than 80 per cent of their habitat has been lost over the past 20 years.”