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Gretchen Peters in Makokou, Gabon

Gretchen Peters in Makokou, Gabon. Powdered rhino horn was recently valued at $65,000 a kilo, $30,000 a pound. “It’s more expensive than cocaine and platinum,” she says.

Protecting Rhinos by Targeting Poachers

Gretchen Peters’ experience as an investigative reporter and crime analyst gave her unique insight as to what was happening to South Africa’s rhinoceros population.

She heard descriptions of the poaching at a conference at George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC). “I realized this was a transnational organized crime issue,” she says. “I’ve seen this before.”

Peters, now a senior fellow at the center, also realized that those fighting rhino poaching were going about it in “an inefficient, suboptimal way, focusing only on the poaching itself. They were going to lose all their animals if they didn’t get smart about transnational crime quickly.”

It’s not poor poachers living in Mozambique. It’s rich criminals in $1,000 suits living in places like Zurich and Dubai.

Gretchen Peters, Senior fellow, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center; part of the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs

The Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, part of the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs (SPGIA), landed a grant from the State Department, which will let Peters map and identify the supply chain, part of her strategy to disrupt the transnational transactions.

“I see it over and over again in almost all sectors of crime,” she says. “The response is more guns, more guards, more fences, more rangers, and closing down stores on the retail end. Ninety-five percent of law enforcement action is at those two ends. No one looks at the dark space in the middle.”