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Lion cubs in Somalia part of large smuggling operation

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 23, 2011 in Environment
Mogadishu - Wildlife smuggling in Somalia has turned into a lucrative business since the state’s fall, with demand for young lion cubs placing a value on them as high as $1,000 apiece, and the pressure is decimating the region’s endemic species.
“Smuggling animals has been a problem since the fall of the Somali state,” said Dr. Osman Gedow Amir, chairman of the Somail Organic Agriculture Development Organization, the GlobalPost reports.
Amir, a German-trained biogeographer, conducts research on the ravages to Somalia’s environment by 20 years of war. “My studies have found smuggling in each region of Somalia, with demand coming from the Gulf States and the Far East,” he continued, and added highest demand comes from the Gulf States, with Asia coming in second.
Lion cubs are part of smuggling operation apparently situated along the Somalia-Kenyan border. Once smuggled into Somalia, the cubs are easily shipped abroad, fetching high prices.
Along with mounting pressure on the wildlife is destruction of the area’s environment, fueled by the country's internal conflict and its growing famine. “Huge amounts of charcoal is exported to the Gulf States,” Amir noted. “We are destroying our ecosystem.”
According to the GlobalPost, charcoal is referred to as “black gold” and is a source of vast income for Al Shabaab, Somalia’s Islamist insurgent group. “Charcoal is gathered from pastoralist and agricultural areas, mainly from acacia forests in riverine zones between the Juba and Shabelle rivers,” the Post cites a UN report. “Packaged and sold in sacks weighing 23 to 25 kilograms each, charcoal has become the most lucrative source of income for Al Shabaab. An estimated 80 percent of charcoal produced in Somalia is destined for export.”
The report suggests Al Shabaab’s annual charcoal exports bring in an estimated $15 million and leaves in its wake wholesale destruction of animal and human habitat. Somalia’s current state of lawlessness is doing little to prevent the assault.
Amir noted law enforcement is essential, both for wildlife and the environment. “To have wildlife protection you need a state and law enforcement; without that you can do nothing,” he said. Neither exist in Somalia.
In neighboring Kenya, a wildlife bill is under consideration which would expand that country’s game parks and national reserves. In addition to offering higher compensation for crops, property, livestock and injury caused by wild animals, the bill would encourage communities and individuals to offer up more land for parks and reserves.
“We have no more land to create national parks. Hope lies in the hands of communities or private individuals. That’s why there’s a need to design sufficient incentives for the group to change their land use for conservation,” said KWS managing director Julius Kipng-etich, The East African reports.
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