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Help Launch Horn of Africa Conservation Alliance

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The Problem: 

Global wildlife crime has been estimated by the UN to be worth between US $7 and $23 billion dollars per year, run by sophisticated criminal enterprises looking to capitalize on the high return and relatively low risks of the trade (UN, 2017; GEF, 2020). Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) has become the 4th most profitable global crime, behind the trafficking of drugs, arms, and humans. International criminal syndicates operating between the Middle East and the Horn of Africa (HOA) that specialize in the trade of live exotic animals are exploiting the insecurity and limited capacities of law enforcement agencies in the region, adding further pressure. As many as 300 cheetah cubs are being moved through the HOA corridor annually, mainly through Somaliland, making it by far the largest live cheetah smuggling corridor in the world (IAFW, CCF). This is particularly concerning because the entire Cheetah population is estimated at less than 7500, and as a result, scientists are pushing for reclassification on the IUCN Red List from vulnerable to endangered status (PNAS, 2017); CCF; IFAW). The HOA corridor also supports substantial illicit trade in other animal and forestry products, including antelopes, tortoises, birds, ivory, hardwood timber, and charcoal, utilizing the same highly advanced transnational crime networks. According to a Somaliland official, in Somaliland alone, more than 1,100 various exotic animals were seized from traffickers by authorities between 2018 and 2020. Countless others are sacrificed along the trade route, perishing in grueling trafficking conditions. Apart from the animal trade, the trade of illicit forestry products is generating substantial criminal revenues. The UN estimates that, per annum, the charcoal trade within the HOA accounts for the loss of about 8.2 million trees, amounting to as much as US $360 million.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime has identified the HOA coastal waters as some of the richest fishing grounds in the world but they are being severely threatened due to the decrease in piracy lending to the large increase in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the region. The Federal Government of Somalia recently reported more than 192 Iranian illegal fishing vessels in Somali waters, a figure that more than triples when taking other flagged vessels in the region into account. In addition to the illegal catching of fish, the HOA also experiences the smuggling of shark fins.

Due to its post-conflict status, complex political relations, and complicated natural and human geography, the HOA region only receives a fraction of the resources necessary to counter its immense conservation challenges. The HOA post-conflict areas of eastern Ethiopia, Somaliland and greater Somalia are particularly unprotected and fragile, leaving them vastly unequipped to combat the illegal wildlife trade and IUU fishing in the region.

Our Solution:

Formation of the HOACA:

The Mission of the Horn of Africa Conservation Alliance (HOACA) is to Counter Wildlife Trafficking (CWT) in the HOA region by delivering community-based conservation solutions supported by capacity building at the governmental level while striving to ensure accountability and adaptability through evidence-based results.

Our Approach

HOA conservation and CWT efforts are grossly underfunded in the region because conventional organizations are unable to operate. High risk, cultural barriers and political unrest have created an unfavorable working environment. Our team is uniquely qualified to manage and mitigate risk in the HOA. Rather than a top-down approach, we are unique in our ability to come in on the ground, map out the problem and individual needs of the host country, and turn that into policy and capacity-building recommendations. We are able to work in this capacity because of the extensive partner networks we’ve built on the ground, backed by local knowledge, political connections and trusted community relations. The size and expertise of our team also allow us to be agile. By adjusting quickly to rapidly evolving conditions, we are able to maximize our potential to disrupt IWT activities. We were also able to work closely with our Government partners to build prosecution capacity and provide much-needed technical support. For example, in addition to identifying IWT trafficking channels in Somaliland, working in collaboration with government agencies, we have also identified cross-cutting barriers and opportunities to prevent and combat IWT.

So far our teams have helped identify several major wildlife suppliers, distributors, and buyers, several of which we have helped our government partners arrest, imprison, and fine. We have recovered numerous cheetah cubs, leopards, and other animals as well as other illegal contraband. We have been approached by our government partners with requests to ramp up our operations as well as bring in technical experts, trainers, and policy specialists to help them build Wildlife Protection Teams. 

We are the ONLY entity in the Horn of Africa doing this kind of work,  largely because we are the only ones who are unafraid to put boots on the ground and actually do it.  One of our biggest strengths has been risk identification/mitigation and we’ve demonstrated this strength repeatedly over the past two years as evidenced by our trusted and deepening relationships with our local government and community partners, consistent achievements and major milestones met, verified conservation impacts on the ground and the continued health and safety of our entire team despite the challenging environments (and COVID) we’ve been forced to work through over the past two years.

Why Are We Fundraising

We are hoping is to reach a wide audience of concerned and empathic individuals who wish to contribute to a cause dedicated to making real and positive impacts in an area of the world that has been left behind and ignored by most international conservation Non-Profits, International Agencies, and Governments alike.  

Equipping and training our government and community partners in the region is a key aspect in our efforts to put an end to wildlife poaching and trafficking in the HOA and we require much-needed funds to continue our efforts.  All funds received will be used to cover HOACA administrative and setup costs e.g.: 
-Establishing a Website
-Creating Professional Marketing Materials
-Purchasing Communications Equipment
-Facilitating Personnel Travel Requirements

We are currently working with Government and Community Partners in Somaliland, Puntland and Eastern Ethiopia to stop wildlife poaching and trafficking with plans to expand our efforts into Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan. 

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Timothy Spalla
Denver, CO

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