Ofir Drori, a self-proclaimed adventurer, is one of the new voices fighting the illegal hunting and trade of African wildlife.
Hundreds of elephants, apes, lions, tigers rhinos and parrots are hunted in Africa everyday, whether for food, or for trade in their body parts.
Drori, 31, first came to Africa eight years ago, where he quickly became a human-rights activist. After traveling through the continent, he found that its hunting and poaching laws were barely enforces, he formed LAGA – The Last Great Ape Organization, which became a leader in the fight against poaching.
"If no one does anything to stop the illegal trade, many rare animals will become extinct in a few years," he told Yedioth Ahronoth Tuesday.
The third largest illegal trade in the world (Photo: Dalit Shaham)
Officially formed in 2003, LAGA, which is based in Cameroon, enjoys the support of the US and UK governments, the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Interpol, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and African embassies; and by various independent American and European environmental protections and conservations organizations.
LAGA is recognized by the various African governments as well, which lend their security forces to its operations: The organization's activists, along with armed policemen perform investigations – covert or official – against those suspected in poaching, following them through with raids, arrests and the proper judicial proceedings, in many cases putting their lives at risk.
Trading in rare animals in a lucrative business, as nowadays, illegal ivory in traded at $700 for 2lbs. Ivory is mostly in demand in Asian markets. "A container carrying 600 tusks equals 300 dead elephants," said Drori. "People think poaching doesn't exist anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth."
The force behind many of the poachers is the mafia. "The smugglers make a lot of money. This is the world's third largest illegal trade after drugs and weapons," he added.
Drori is proud to be the Israeli heading the operation. "Israel has been a real force in the fight against animal poaching and trade in the international arena for many years. Our operational experience comes in handy when in comes to protecting nature."