You’ve all seen the articles about elephant poaching — the slaughtered animals, the hacked-off tusks, the grieving baby elephants alongside their dead mothers.
This isn’t one of those articles. I’m not here to shock you. I need your help to get me to Africa to put a stop to it.
Every 12 minutes an elephant is killed for its tusks. This is not subsistence hunting; the bodies are left in the field to rot. Nor is it a local mom-and-pop enterprise. On the contrary, ivory poaching is a cartel-type operation. The poachers carry assault rifles, belt-fed Russian machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They communicate by satellite phones and turn their tusks over to Chinese middlemen who arrange to have them smuggled through a variety of routes to destinations all around the world. Usually this means China, Thailand and the Philippines. Corruption is chronic all the way up the chain, from local law enforcement to national-level politicians and military officers.
Several vicious terrorist groups in central Africa use ivory poaching to finance their murderous campaigns. Joseph Kony’s ruthless band is here, as are the Janjaweed of Darfur and Al Shabab, the Somali branch of Al Qaida. Stopping the poachers will put the brakes on a lot of very bad people.
With the help of The Union readers and a lot of other good people, we can stop this. I have a plan, and I am prepared to take personal risks to implement it.
I want to combine four things in a unique way: tactical skills, timely intelligence, local buy-in and social media clout. Tactics and intelligence, tightly knit together, mean effective operations against experienced and well-armed poachers. Local buy-in means I work within the framework of the local culture, helping ordinary people in Africa achieve a good life without killing elephants. Social media clout gives me a way of casting a spotlight on corruption and thus gives some degree of protection.
But to do all this, I have to actually get on the scene for a reconnaissance. I need to know a lot of things that can’t be learned sitting here in Nevada City. I need to make connections, get some backup and check out logistics. This wouldn’t be a tourist jaunt; the area where I want to operate is currently very volatile and — trust me — not the sort of place you’d visit for fun. But I’ve been in places like that before in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Balkans. I’m in great shape and I can handle myself thanks to a lot of military experience and extreme travel.
Here’s the problem: I’ve already put my own money, and hundreds of hours, into this cause. I’m just an ordinary guy with a limited income, and I can’t afford to get to Africa. Get me there, and I will collect the local, in-person information I need to proceed. I’ll also share valuable intelligence I collect with conservation groups, helping them to operate more effectively.
An elephant every 12 minutes. . . . I am willing to get between the poachers and the elephants. Help me to help them. Go to http://gofundme.com/6joeng and find out how. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Steve McNallen lives in Nevada City.