The American conservationist Esmond Bradley Martin, one of the world’s leading experts in illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horns, was stabbed and killed at his home in Kenya on Sunday, according to local police. The 75-year-old researcher’s body was found by his wife at his home in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The Police investigate the circumstances of the crime and there are already four suspects arrested.
Bradley first came to Kenya in the seventies to react to the increase in murders of elephants, who were killed to extract their fangs. Since then he investigated and fought against the illegal trade of ivory, traveling through Africa and Asia.
Bradley followed in the footsteps of the merchants from the African lands where the affected animals live to the Asian destinations where the products are sold, China, Vietnam and Laos, finding out the networks and prices in the black markets. The activist also photographed evidence and exposed the results to exert pressure. In a report last year, Bradley Martin, along with his colleague Lucy Vigne, managed to establish that Laos was the great emerging market for ivory trade worldwide.
His risky investigations, infiltrating the mafias of the illegal world market of these matters, earned him international recognition and helped the Government of China to take action: in 1993 he banned the legal trade in rhinoceros horns and this January came into force the ban of the ivory trade. Bradley, who was also a United Nations special envoy for the conservation of rhinoceroses, had just returned from a trip to Myanmar-formerly Burma-and was about to publish a new report.
The conservation community is once again mourning and in shock. Still with the fresh memory of the murder, in August of last year, of the animal protector Wayne Lotter, 51 years old, shot dead in Tanzania. Two gunmen killed Lotter, who was the co-founder of an NGO that supported communities and governments in different African countries to fight against poaching.
The battle against poaching occurs against networks that proliferate in East and South Africa to take the products to Asia, where they are sold as medicines or aphrodisiacs. Mafias grow faster than operations and strategies to confront them. The number of dead animals has skyrocketed in the last decade, and more than 1,000 rhinos died in 2016 alone in South Africa.
Mozambique saw half of its elephants disappear between 2010 and 2015; and in one of the largest wild areas in Africa, in the Selous Reserve of Tanzania, 90% of elephants have disappeared in the last four decades.
With the appetite of the new Chinese middle class for ivory and the price of rhinoceros horn higher than gold or cocaine, surveillance against illegal hunting is overwhelmed in countries like Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa. And the death of Bradley falls like a very hard blow to the fight to fight it.