Across Africa and Asia, an illegal trade worth $7 to $10 billion annually is threatening to annihilate elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and others of the world’s biggest and most beautiful species. Conservation groups and governments are struggling to police the poachers and protect the animals, but the stretches of wild land they must patrol are far too big for their resources; will too little oversight, poachers are able to kill and trade undetected.
Biologists and conservation groups have found reason to hope they can stop the bloodshed: drones, or, more generally, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The World Wildlife Fund has seen in UAVs the potential to scan large areas for poachers, and earlier this year launched a pilot program in Nepal to try them out. And now, with $5 million in funding from Google, the WWWF will be able to expand its conservation-drone program at four (so-far unnamed) sites in Africa and Asia. The money was given as part of the first round of Google’s Global Giving Awards and will also go toward a tagging system and analytical software that will help rangers monitor wildlife and illegal logging across huge landscapes.
When President Barack Obama unveiled major actions to fight human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative late last month, he acknowledged that the White House couldn’t do it alone.
In part, that’s because the new executive order announced by the president, which bans government contractors from engaging in human trafficking-related practices, was meant to encourage all American corporations to follow suit. That’s where Not For Sale comes in.
The Obama administration has confirmed that the California-based nonprofit has been tapped to participate in an upcoming forum at the White House, along with Obama’s Faith-Based Advisory Council, to talk to major corporations about how their electronics, apparel and food can be produced without the use of “slaves.”
In his September speech, Obama said it was time to call victims of human trafficking—the illegal trade of human beings for labor or sex—“modern slavery.” The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency that handles labor issues, estimates there are nearly 21 million slaves globally today
Moldova was a relatively prosperous republic when it was still part of the Soviet Union. But now its ailing economy has driven roughly a quarter of its population abroad in search of better prospects. The victims are the thousands of children growing up back home alone.
When Nadia Popa wakes up at 7 a.m. every morning, it is to a growing and uneasy feeling of rage. Popa lives in an apartment in the southern part of Verona, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, where summer lilac is now in full bloom. It’s a place where tourists come to spend romantic weekends. “I’m not here to be happy,” she says.
Her children, Anastasia, 16, and Alexandra, 12, wake up at the same time, but more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away, in the dusty village of Nucreni in the northern part of the Republic of Moldova. Popa’s daughters live in a country that is notorious for human trafficking and the illegal trade in human organs. The girls sleep in a spotless room with pink walls and teddy bears neatly lined up on the sofa. It looks more like an empty dollhouse than the bedroom of two young girls.
Anastasia and her sister, Alexandra, live alone in the house, which is on a gravel road. They feed the chickens before school and, in the afternoon, they plow the corn and potato fields. The girls run their own household, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and cutting firewood in the forest. The pink bedroom looks like that of a typical childhood — but this is anything but that.
After Moldova became less prosperous, the parents in families like Anastasia and Alexandra’s began to leave. Moldova was relatively prosperous during the Soviet era, when it was a significant exporter of fruit and vegetables to the rest of the country. But today, it is Europe’s poorest country. Of a population of 4 million, one million Moldovans have already moved abroad to countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece, which they still view as places of hope. Most Moldovans live there illegally, leaving children and the elderly behind in their villages in Moldova.