Wayne Lotter had received numerous death threats while battling international ivory-trafficking networks. Police believe Wayne Lotter’s killer may have followed and targeted the conservationist According to The Guardian:
“The wildlife conservationist was being driven from the airport to his hotel when his taxi was stopped by another vehicle. Two men, one armed with a gun opened his car door and shot him.
Lotter was a director and co-founder of the PAMS Foundation, an NGO that provides conservation and anti-poaching support to communities and governments in Africa. Since starting the organisation in Tanzania in 2009, he had received numerous death threats relating to his work.
The PAMS Foundation funded and supported Tanzania’s elite anti-poaching National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) which was responsible for arrests of major ivory traffickers including Yang Feng Glan, the so-called “Queen of Ivory” and several other notorious elephant poachers.
Since 2012, the unit has arrested more than 2,000 poachers and ivory traffickers and has a conviction rate of 80%. The NTSCIU was recently featured in the Netflix documentary The Ivory Game. In a previous interview, Lotter said he believed its work had helped to reduce poaching rates in Tanzania by at least 50%.”
Wildlife Trafficking Fuels Greater Insecurity and the Global Illegal Economy
As I have written on numerous occasions: The poaching of, and trafficking in, wildlife is not a benign activity. It is a criminal threat that requires a criminal justice response. In many parts of the world, we are witnessing the involvement of dangerous criminals in what used to be considered a conservation issue. By some conservative estimates, the illegal trade in wildlife is worth billions of dollars each year.
Traffickers are drawn to the high profit potential and low risk of detection and prosecution. Park rangers, law enforcement officers, and conservation champions like Wayne Lotter, are frequently outmatched by well-equipped poachers; in fact many park rangers and others have been killed while trying to protect their parks and the wildlife that roam freely in them.
Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking poses a real threat to global stability and undermines security across nations. Well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of criminals and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in poached wildlife.
Wildlife trafficking fuels corruption and other transnational crimes, threatens the rule of law, and destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism revenues.
Criminal organizations, including some terrorist entities, are increasingly involved in this illicit trade, especially the illegal movement of wildlife from source countries in Africa to consumer countries across East Asia, and other parts of the world.
According to a 2014 Living Planet report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over the past 40 years, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped by 52 percent.
Given the enormous profits in the illegal wildlife trade, in recent years, the poaching of iconic animals such as rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, gorillas, orangutans, and pangolins, have left these species very close to extinction.
We must continue to place wildlife trafficking within the context of the broader goals of international community’s efforts to combat corruption, transnational organized crime, and other related security threats. In promoting the rule of law and developing effective counter illicit trade strategies, we can better harness the political will and leverage multi-disciplinary approaches and capabilities towards stronger enforcement results, prosecute the illegal wildlife trade and other illicit trafficking areas, disrupt illicit networks across borders, and punish illicit and corrupt actors whose criminal intent is to pillage, profit from, and destroy our ecosystems, habitats, and sustainable communities.
Honoring Courageous Defenders and Champions of Our Humanity and Planet
Across the global illegal economy and illicit markets, too many courageous defenders and champions of our humanity and planet pay the ultimate price in combating the webs of corruption and criminality and those behind today’s illicit trafficking networks — including the trafficking of arms, counterfeits, humans, narcotics, wildlife, pillaged natural resources, and other illicit commodities.
I associate myself with the recent words of John Scanlon, Secretary-General, CITES, related to the death of Lotter, and other park rangers: “Over the past week, three park rangers were killed in Virunga National Park and a leading conservationist shot dead in Tanzania. These are tragic losses and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends. They lost their lives serving in the front lines and their legacy endures.”
The legacy of these defenders and champions of our humanity and planet indeed endures.
We honor their commitment and courage to fight the pernicious threats involved in today’s illicit trade and to make our world a better place tomorrow, and for all future generations.
Learn more about the threat environment in Tanzania and across Africa related to the Illegal Wildife Trade, and front-line rangers and undercover operatives risking their lives to save the elephants, as captured in Netflix’s Documentary: “The Ivory Game“.