Endangered species: The new "blood diamonds"

Ivory is funding the genocidal Janjaweed militia, according to a report in this week's issue of Newsweek.

Not only are the Janjaweed poaching and slaughtering thousands of elephants and endangered rhinos, they are even attempting to raid warehouses containing ivory captured from other poachers, killing park rangers in the process.

The ivory, which can not legally be sold under international law, is nonetheless bringing in both money and weapons to the Janjaweed, which in turn fuels the genocide in Darfur.

The Janjaweed are being aided by criminal gangs like the Chinese Triads, which have the power and connections to move tons of illegal product at a time. (Check out last year's story "Endangered species trade brings meth plague to South Africa" for more on Triad activities.)

Traditionally, we've thought of "poachers" as individuals desperate for food or a little bit of money. But the problem has gone way past that. Illegal trade in endangered species is now big business -- worth at least $10 billion a year, possibly twice that, according to the U.S. Department of State -- and it's funding some of the greatest evil in the world today.