In Somalia, the terrorist group al-Shabaab take in at least $38 million a year by felling trees illegally and burning them into charcoal. The activity is their largest source of cash. In Africa as a whole, the illegal charcoal trade—the main cooking fuel—most likely brings in more money than the illegal drug trade.
Taken together, all types of environmental crime—from smuggling elephant tusks to China to illegal dumping of toxic waste—generates as much as $213 billion for unsavory characters around the world. That’s according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme and Interpol.
The biggest chunk of that sum comes from forest crime—illicitly-cut-down rare timber, like teak, and other illegally harvested trees lost as exported pulp or wood chips. Then there's the smuggling of wildlife, dead or alive. Poached ivory fetches at least $165 million a year in Asia while our closest living relatives—great apes like chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans—are being kidnapped from the wild and sold to private collectors.
But environmental crime can be fought. For example, Brazil has dramatically reduced tree-cutting in the Amazon with better enforcement, and east Africa has stepped up its ivory busts. And as consumers, we all can help curb crime by cutting the demand for these goods. Just say no.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]