Category Archives: news

The ivory trade kills people too

Aaron Hall and Andrea Crosta, Al Jazeera
January 24, 2015
If you buy ivory, you kill people.
This is the new reality in an illicit trade responsible for large-scale human exploitation, government corruption, and the funding of rebel movements, terrorists, and criminal syndicates around the world. The imagery and narrative of the global ivory trade is now well known – replete with rotting elephant carcasses littering African national parks, well-tailored ministers and heads of state burning ivory stocks for the camera, and law enforcement officials smiling in front of ship containers of seized ivory.
While, there is no doubt of the many faces of the global ivory trade, there is one element that is too often overlooked – that of the human toll.
The human toll of the ivory trade is the negative impact on the individuals and communities exploited along the chain of custody from Africa, to Asia, and points beyond. It is not just about elephants.
This trade is historically and inexorably linked to the exploitation and enslavement of vulnerable communities in Africa and Asia. It includes governments and countries sucked deeper into the morass of corruption, mismanagement, and taxpayer abuse wrought from public officials supporting criminal interests.
Far reaching implications
It includes the lives affected by the introduction of other illegal activities that overlap with the groups and individuals engaged in the ivory trade – including the trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans.
Like diamonds, gold, coltan or timber; ivory is taking its own place as a conflict resource in sub-Saharan Africa.
International criminal syndicates, corrupt government officials, and some of the world’s most notorious terrorists and militias are fuelling the global trade in illegal ivory.
In 2012, an 18-month investigation conducted by the Elephant Action League (EAL) in collaboration with Maisha Consulting, estimated that the Somalia based al-Shabab organisation was drawing up to 40 percent of funds for salaries from ivory smuggling.
Other groups like the Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic, the Janjaweed in Sudan and the Lords Resistance Army in central Africa have all been tied to ivory smuggling as a means to raise funding for arms and operations. Further, elements of several regional governments in Africa and Asia have been implicated in facilitating the extraction, trade, and export of ivory for personal profit.
The underground ivory supply chain increasingly destabilises already unstable states, and the growth and sophistication of global smuggling networks is outpacing international efforts to stop them. At the same time, the rate of poaching is outpacing the time needed to attempt the behavioural change – in the primarily Asian consumption markets – necessary to stop the demand for it.
What that means, is that in conjunction with new innovative awareness campaigns in Asia, more action is needed on the ground in Africa to prevent the negative social, political, and economic impacts that are derivative of the ivory trade.
Militarising ivory trade
In part, that immediate action must include governments and citizens from western, African, and Asian states facing the responsibilities of addressing the human death and exploitation it perpetuates.
Given the increased complexity and militarisation of the trade, new innovative approaches will be required to reduce it.
In conjunction with new innovative awareness campaigns in Asia, more action is needed on the ground in Africa to prevent the negative social, political, and economic impacts that are derivative of the ivory trade.
This will demand mitigation strategies that occupy a unique space at the nexus of the fields of environmental conservation, public policy, peace and security, counterterrorism, and human rights.
While certainly challenging, addressing the trade through the lens of the human toll potentially presents opportunities for the creation of new tools to pressure necessary policymakers and citizens to take additional action.
For instance, building the law enforcement and witness protection capacity of affected states around the world. Crowdsourcing information through anonymous whistle-blowing mechanisms like WildLeaks.org has proven incredibly effective, however, there is a gap in the ability of states to protect the individuals providing critical information and act on tip-offs.
Informants must know they can be protected and local and international law enforcement must be able to act immediately.
The environment of impunity for corrupt state and private sector individuals involved in the trade is also a fundamental barrier to mitigation. Exploring tough sanctions on individuals and states involved in the trade could make the business of ivory more costly for those involved.
It was the spike in the value of ivory over the past five years that exacerbated this problem. It will be correlated losses from the cost of doing business that will stop it.
In addition to punitive measures, creating public awareness campaigns specifically on the human toll in countries like China and Thailand could go a long way in stemming demand. Showing both governments and consumers in these states that behind every ivory trinket made and sold is a trail of human suffering and exploitation in Africa – something most citizens of those countries are unaware of.
Addressing the trade through the human angle requires a multi-faceted approach incorporating all aspects of those impacted. In conjunction with African and Asian partners it affects our collective security, economic development and partnership, and obligation to the protection of human rights and shared history.
So while wildlife and wildlife conservation is the traditional medium to approach the issue of poaching and trafficking, it is becoming imperative to develop strategies and campaigns that also put a human face on the destruction and exploitation globally.
Andrea Crosta is the founder of Elephant Action League and WildLeaks.
Aaron Hall is an East Africa-based independent consultant and adviser to Elephant Action League/WildLeaks.

Hebei Hengshui Police Seize A Large Consignment Of African Ivory And Apprehend 12 Suspects

19/01/2015

Article by Cui Zhiping and Guo Jianbo

The Hebei Province Public Security Bureau has today revealed that the Public Security Bureau of the Lake City cracked a case it has been tracking for a year, which involved making illegal sales of ivory and ivory products. Up until now, 14 suspects have been arrested, as they were found to be involved in major crimes.

In the fall of 2013, the Hengshui Public Security Bureau went into deep investigation in several villages within its jurisdiction after it learnt that there were persons engaged in ivory carving and secretly selling handicrafts. Once the police had this clue, they immediately launched an investigation, and used a variety of ways to get close to these people, in order to accurately grasp the evidence. However, the vigilance of these suspects was high, and having carved crafts for many years, on weekedays, they would continue working in the jade businesses and other businesses which they operated as cover. They had created a “forum” or “circle”, making it very difficult for people outside the circle to acquire ivory.

In early 2014, after many twists and turns, a piece of ivory was finally floundered. It was identified as a raw material of African ivory. After consultation with members of the circle, the police also learned that due to the unique colour on the ivory and the veins, the real ivory had a very high costs and there were very few imitations in the black market.

The Public Security Bureau attached great importance to the case. Under the guidance of the Bureau Chief, Zhang Zeqiang, the Bureau immediately constituted a team led by the Bureau Deputy Secretary Zhang Xiangning, Captain Du Jianting of the state security, the Public Security Chief Lim Liang, who is also the Deputy head of the task force and others, they started out on months of operation, through which the police participated. They took part in the buying and reselling of the products. This way they took information of the suspects, source of the ivory, processing, sales and other aspects, and in the process investigated each of their social relationships between people, and then one by one screening of the suspicious persons.

In September of 2014, when going through the multiple related cases, they came across a great deal of evidence, which helped the ad hoc police to begin closing down on the net. In the following 3 months, the police have rushed to Beijing, Shandong, Dezhou, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, Nanyang, Nanjing and other places and in the process arrested Wang, Guo, Li and other 12 suspects and seized a large number of African elephant ivory and crafts which included both finished and unfinished products among others. They are all worth more than 100 million yuan (Ksh. 150 million)

Going into 2015, the ad hoc police continue to intensify their efforts and 2 more suspects were forced by the police to surrender. Up to now, the Public Security Bureau has arrested a total of 14 suspects, where all of the arrested suspects are main suspects.

The original version of this article can be found in the following link:  http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2015-01-19/173531417802.shtml

Translated by Chris Kiarie

 

U.S. Ivory Regulation: A Q&A with Craig Hoover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Kevin P. Ray, National Law Review
January 5, 2015
In response to concerns that poaching of African elephants is rapidly driving the species to extinction, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued Director’s Order No. 210, which tightened previous practice involving the import, export, and sale of African elephant ivory. The changes met with considerable resistance from a wide range of persons, including museum professionals, musicians, antiques dealers, and collectors. There has been not only consternation, but also confusion about what these changes mean for many transactions involving objects that may contain ivory components.
To help provide some clarity on what precipitated these changes, what the changes are, and what impact they may have, I spoke with Craig Hoover, Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch, for a brief Q&A.
1.      What precipitated the action taken by USFWS in February 2014? (decimation of African elephant populations, alleged use of ivory sales to fund African and international terrorist activities, emerging international consensus on need to concerted action)
Hoover:  The President’s Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking [Executive Order, July 1, 2013] called for a whole-of-government approach, including enhancing domestic efforts, to combat wildlife trafficking.  This included taking all appropriate actions within our authority, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, to stop illegal trade in wildlife products.  In light of the dramatic rise in elephant poaching and illegal trade in ivory, and the increasing level of sophistication and organization in that poaching and illegal trade, as well as a clear U.S. role as a consumer market, we determined that a series of administrative actions under our existing authority to further regulate the import, export and domestic sale of elephant ivory was needed.
2.      News reports have alleged that illicit ivory sales have been used to finance terrorist group activities.[1] Has USFWS and/or the international community been monitoring such activities, and was this a motivating factor?
Hoover:  As our focus is on conservation, we largely leave this question to the Department of State, the Department of Defense and other agencies that address terrorism as a more direct mandate. That being said, we are certainly aware of the nexus between wildlife trafficking and insurgent groups and the destabilizing effect that poaching and illegal trade can have on other governments.  Thus, our administrative actions and the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking are positive efforts not just for conservation but also for people, particularly the local communities impacted by poaching and illegal trade.
3.      How was African elephant ivory regulated under U.S. law (including treaty law) prior to issuance of Director’s Order No. 210 (DO210)?
Hoover:  African elephant ivory has been regulated under U.S. laws and regulations, including the African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), for many years.  Under the AECA, we’ve had a moratorium on the import of ivory in place since 1989 though, as a matter of enforcement discretion, we allowed the import of certain items to continue. Imports and exports have also been strictly regulated under the ESA and CITES regulations.
4.      How does DO210 modify prior practice with respect to the import, export, sale and transfer of African elephant ivory?
Hoover:  As noted above, the United States has had a moratorium on the import of African elephant ivory since 1989. As a matter of enforcement discretion, we were allowing certain African elephant ivory imports to continue despite the moratorium. DO210 narrowed the scope of those exceptions, particularly by prohibiting all commercial imports regardless of the age of the ivory.  It also limits non-commercial imports to household moves and inheritances, musical instruments, and museum specimens that meet certain requirements. DO210 does not impact possession, sale or domestic transfer of African elephant ivory.  More information about the Director’s Order and its impacts can be found here. [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Director’s Order No. 210]
5.      Is DO210 part of a concerted effort to combat the illicit killing of African elephants and the sale of their ivory?
Hoover:  As described in the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, DO210 is one of several administrative actions that, when all are completed, will impose a near total ban on the trade in elephant ivory in the United States. We identified these actions as necessary to ensure that the United States, as a market for ivory, is not contributing to poaching and illegal trade, and to position the United States to encourage other countries to take similar actions to address their roles in the ongoing wildlife trafficking crisis.
6.      Why was DO210 amended? What is the effect of this amendment?
Hoover:  We revised DO210 on May 15, 2014 to address concerns, particularly from musicians and museums, about the DO210 criteria we initially laid out in February. This amendment addressed those concerns while still achieving our goal of limiting imports of African elephant ivory to certain non-commercial activities that are not contributing to poaching and illegal trade.  The only change that related to African elephant ivory was to the date after which the item has not subsequently been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit.  The original date was Feb. 26, 1976 (the date the African elephant was first listed under CITES); the amendment changed this date to Feb. 25, 2014 (the date DO210 was issued).
7.      After the effective date of DO210, is any commercial importation or exportation of African elephant ivory permitted?
Hoover:  No commercial import is allowed. As a matter of enforcement discretion, we had been allowing the import of African elephant ivory items that were more than 100 years old. As of the issuance of DO210, we no longer allow the import of any African elephant ivory for commercial purposes, regardless of age. Commercial export of African elephant ivory is allowed under current ESA regulations, provided our general and CITES permitting requirements are met.
8.      After the effective date of DO210, what non-commercial importation or exportation of African elephant ivory is permitted?
Hoover:  We continue to allow the non-commercial import of the following, under certain conditions: sport-hunted trophies; law enforcement and bona fide scientific specimens; and worked elephant ivory that was legally acquired and removed from the wild prior to Feb. 26, 1976 and has not been sold since Feb. 25, 2014, as part of a household move or inheritance (read more), as part of a musical instrument (read more), and as part of a traveling exhibition (read more).
9.      What other types of ivory are used, and how will they be affected by these actions?
Hoover:  These actions will not affect ivory derived from other species such as walrus, warthog, hippopotamus, mammoth and mastodon. Asian elephant ivory is already regulated under the ESA and CITES. Ivory derived from toothed whales is already regulated by the ESA, CITES and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Strict application of the definition of antique may limit some Asian elephant and whale ivory trade. Refer to our Q&A about antiques for more information.
10.  How can I tell the difference between elephant ivory and other types of ivory?
Hoover:  Buyer beware. Proceed with caution if you intend to purchase a product made of ivory. Ask for documentation that shows the species and age of the ivory item you are purchasing. This documentation could include CITES permits or certificates, certified appraisals, documents that detail date and place of manufacture, etc. It is possible to identify elephant ivory from other types of ivory. For more information, please visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Forensics Laboratory website.
11.  After the issuance of DO210, is it permissible for a museum or musician to purchase objects that contain African elephant ivory outside of the U.S. and import them into the U.S.?
Hoover:  No. Under the terms of DO210, items containing worked African elephant may not have been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since Feb. 25, 2014.  Items obtained via a commercial transaction after Feb. 25, 2014, would not qualify for the exceptions for musical instruments or museum specimens.
12.  After the date of DO210, may a museum or musician either import an object containing African elephant ivory into the U.S. or export such an object from the U.S. for temporary travel or exhibition?
Hoover:  Yes.  See the criteria laid out in Section 2 of DO210 for traveling exhibitions and musical instruments.
13.  For a museum wishing to export an object containing African elephant ivory for a temporary exhibition, what is the procedure to be followed?
Hoover:  Export of African elephant ivory is governed by different rules and restrictions.  Commercial export of CITES Pre-Convention worked ivory, including antiques, that meet CITES permitting requirements, is allowed.  Noncommercial exports must meet CITES permitting requirements.  Export of any raw ivory is prohibited under the AECA and ESA.  However, if the item is intended for return to the United States, it must meet the import requirements identified above.
14.  If USFWS determines that an African elephant ivory item is imported contrary to the provisions of AECA, DO210, CITES or ESA requirements, what process is afforded the importer to dispute that determination?
Hoover:  If we determine that the item was imported in violation of relevant wildlife laws and regulations, that item will be refused clearance.  Depending on the particular situation, the item may be seized or made available for re-export.  Congress has given USFWS the authority to seize property and to use non-judicial civil procedures to forfeit the seized property to the United States.  After seizure of the property that the Government intends to pursue in a civil forfeiture action, we issue a letter termed “Notice of Seizure and Proposed Forfeiture” (NOSPF). The NOSPF gives interest holders notice of the seizure and proposed administrative forfeiture of the seized property, notice of the availability of administrative and judicial processes for contesting the proposed forfeiture, and notice of applicable deadlines for utilizing these processes.  The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA) and Interior regulations provide for alternative and not sequential remedies for administrative forfeiture: once notified, an interested party may choose to allow the forfeiture to proceed administratively or may compel the Government to initiate a judicial forfeiture action by filing a claim for the property.  The relevant statute and regulations can be found at 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(2)(B) and 50 C.F.R. 12.23 and 12.24.
 15. What is meant by the ESA antiques exception?
Hoover:  The import, export and interstate sale (sale across state lines) of listed species or their parts is prohibited without an ESA permit except for items that qualify as “antique”.  To qualify as antique, the importer, exporter or seller must show that the item meets all of these criteria:
A.  It is 100 years or older;
B.   It is composed in whole or in part of an ESA-listed species;
C.   It has not been repaired or modified with any such species after December 27, 1973; and
D.  It is being or was imported through an endangered species “antique port.”
Under Director’s Order 210, as a matter of enforcement discretion, items imported prior to September 22, 1982 (the date the “antique ports” were designated), and items created in the United States and never imported must comply with elements A, B, and C above, but not element D.
Because the African elephant is regulated under the ESA via a “special rule”, the ESA exception for antiques does not apply.  Rather, the language of the “special rule” dictates what is allowed and prohibited under the ESA.
16. What is an endangered species antique port?
Hoover:  In establishing the antique exception under the ESA, Congress directed what was then the U.S. Customs Service to identify specific ports of entry where antiques made from endangered and threatened species can be imported. There are 13 of these locations: Boston, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Miami, Florida; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Anchorage, Alaska; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Chicago, Illinois.
17.  The Director’s Order refers to worked African elephant ivory that “was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976.” What does that mean?
Hoover:  February 26, 1976, is the date the African elephant was first listed under CITES (the pre-Convention date). An item that contains African elephant ivory that was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976, is considered to be a pre-Convention specimen. This does not mean that the current owner must have purchased or acquired it prior to 1976, but that the item was manufactured from ivory that was taken from the wild prior to 1976. For example, a musical instrument that was manufactured in 1965 using African elephant ivory would be considered a pre-Convention specimen. Likewise, an instrument manufactured in 1985 using ivory acquired by the manufacturer in 1975 would also be considered a pre-Convention specimen. Since it is unlawful to possess specimens that have been traded contrary to CITES or taken in violation of the ESA, the ivory must have been legally acquired.
18.  Can I currently sell elephant ivory products within the United States?
Hoover:  African elephant ivory that a seller can demonstrate was lawfully imported prior to January 18, 1990—the date that the African elephant was listed in CITES Appendix I—and ivory imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate can be sold within the U.S. (across state lines and within a state) provided that no state laws are violated during the transaction.  Some states have also taken steps to limit commerce in ivory. Asian elephant ivory sold in interstate commerce within the U.S. must meet the strict criteria of the ESA antiques exception.
Because the current rules regarding interstate commerce are different for African elephant ivory compared to Asian elephant ivory, a seller must be able to identify the ivory to species. This could be demonstrated using CITES permits or certificates, a qualified appraisal, or documents that detail date and place of manufacture, etc.
19.  Why is USFWS allowing limited imports for non-commercial purposes to continue, but restricting the commercial importation of antiques made from African elephant ivory?
Hoover:  The U.S. is a market for objects made from African elephant ivory, which drives increasing poaching of wild elephants. We have determined that it must take every administrative and regulatory action to cut off import of raw and worked elephant ivory where that importation is for commercial purposes. Allowing imports for law enforcement and scientific purposes is in line with our mission to help conserve African elephants and stop trafficking in African elephant ivory. The other limited exceptions allow movement into the U.S. of legally possessed African elephant ivory that predates the listing under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for personal use as part of a household move or inheritance, musical performances, and traveling exhibitions. Each of these types of import must meet specific criteria. And unlike the commercial antiques trade, none of these types of imports has been used extensively by smugglers to “cover” trafficking in newly poached ivory.
 20.  For an object to qualify under the antique exception, what documentation or proof is required?
Hoover:  DO210 Appendix A lays out in great detail the documentation requirements for items to meet the ESA exemption for antiques.
21.  Is ownership and use of personally owned elephant ivory items affected?
Hoover:  Personal possession of legally acquired items containing elephant ivory will remain legal. Worked African elephant ivory imported for personal use as part of a household move or as an inheritance and worked African elephant ivory imported as part of a musical instrument or a traveling exhibition will continue to be allowed provided the worked ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014, and the item is accompanied by a valid CITES document. The import of raw African elephant ivory, other than sport-hunted trophies, is prohibited.
22. May lawfully possessed African elephant ivory be transferred to others?  By gift?  By bequest?  Does a charitable gift or bequest to a museum or other charitable institution qualify as a transfer not “for financial gain” for purposes of DO210 if the donor receives a charitable tax deduction for the donation?
Hoover:  Lawfully imported and possessed African elephant ivory can be used for noncommercial purposes, including transfer, bequest, or charitable gift, within the U.S. Such items can also be sold if the seller can demonstrate that the ivory was lawfully imported prior to the date the African elephant was listed in CITES Appendix I (January 18, 1990) or was imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate.
We intend to revise the ESA “special rule” for the African elephant, including further restricting sale across state lines.   Before finalizing those regulations, we will publish a proposed rule in theFederal Register for public review and comment.
23.  Are any further modifications to DO210 or to the importation, exportation, or interstate sale of ivory anticipated at this time?
Hoover:  We do not plan to revise DO210.  However, as noted above, we do intend to revise the ESA “special rule” for the African elephant, further restricting interstate sale of ivory and incorporating at least some aspects of DO210 into its regulations.  These regulations will be published as a proposed rule subject to public comment before being finalized, likely in 2015.
Additional information about the USFWS rules concerning the import, export, and sale of ivory is available on the USFWS’s ivory FAQ.
[1] See, e.g., Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.), “How Poaching Fuels Terrorism Funding,” CNN.com, Oct. 22, 2014, available here;  Johan Bergenas and Monica Medina, “Break the Link Between Terrorism Funding and Poaching,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2014, available here. Others have challenged this claim.  See, e.g., Tristan McConnell, “Illegal Ivory May Not Be Funding African Terror Group,” USA Today, Nov. 14, 2014, available here.

Asia’s World City: epicentre of the ivory trade

Conservationist Richard Bonham has been combating the ivory trade in Kenya for 40 years. Now the ‘white Maasai’ is shining a light on Hong Kong’s dirty little secret, writes John Vidal

Most tourists who walk into Hong Kong’s many licensed ivory stores and carving factories browse the displays of statues, pendants and jewellery and accept the official assurances that it all comes from sustainable sources.

But not the reserved middle-aged man who last month went into a shop in Queen’s Road Central. What started with a few polite questions about the provenance of the objects on show turned swiftly to confrontation. Within minutes he was furious and the owner had threatened to call the police.

Having spent nearly 40 years trying to protect elephants and other African wildlife from poachers, Richard Bonham says he was shocked to see, for the first time, the Hong Kong stores where most of the world’s ivory ends up. The statistics, he says, show that Africa’s elephant population has crashed from 1.3 million in 1979 to about 400,000 today. In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers and more are now being shot than are being born. Rhinos are on the edge, too.

For a Hong Kong shopkeeper, each trinket is something to profit from. But for Bonham, they tell a story of cruelty, desperation and exploitation.

“I wanted to see for myself. Yes, I was angry. There’s no other word for it. I saw the shops with huge stocks that, despite the import ban, are not dwindling. Yet the [Hong Kong] government has chosen not to recognise or address the lack of legitimacy of their trade.

“The experience of seeing the end destination of ivory was important to me. It completed the circle from seeing elephant herds stampeding in terror at the scent of man, from seeing the blood-soaked soil around lifeless carcasses to whimsical trinkets in glass display cases.”

Bonham is a co-founder of the Big Life Foundation, which, with help from conservation organisations such as Tusk, now employs more than 300 community scouts to protect the wildlife on 800,000 hectares of wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, in southern Kenya, at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

In London last week to receive the Prince William Lifetime Achievement Award for conservation, he produced a Hong Kong government document that showed how the former British colony holds more than 100 tonnes of ivory despite a 25-year-old import ban that was meant to eliminate all stocks 10 years ago. It is proof, he says, that the Hong Kong government knows its traders have been topping up their stocks with “black”, or illegal, ivory from poached elephants, yet does nothing.

Back in Africa, he says, the trade causes carnage and impoverished environments.

“I have watched [the number of] elephants in the Selous Game Reserve, in Tanzania, drop from over 100,000 animals to probably less than 10,000 today and that number is still falling. During a one-hour drift down the Rufiji River three years ago I was seeing up to six different elephant herds coming down to drink. Now I see none – they’ve gone, back to dust and into the African soil, with their ivory shipped off to distant lands. There is a silence on that river that will take decades to fill – if at all.”

But despite the statistics, he says he is upbeat for conservation, at least in the Amboseli National Park, in Kenya, where Bonham lives among the Maasai.

“It’s not all bad news, it’s not too late. We have got poaching there more or less under control. We are seeing elephants on the increase and lions, which 15 years ago were on the verge of local extinction, have increased by 300 per cent. But probably more importantly we are seeing local communities setting aside land for conservancies and wildlife.

“Our recipe has been simple. We are dealing with communal Maasai lands – a 6,000 sq km ecosystem. We have employed 300 guys from the communities and placed them around the park in outposts. They know the people, so it’s a huge informal network. They have a vested interest in stopping poaching. They are all on a salary and incentives.

If they recover a firearm or ivory, each team gets about US$1,000. If they recover bushmeat from hunters they get less.

Since 2011, they have made 1,420 arrests and 3,012 weapons have been confiscated.”

The compensation scheme costs about US$300,000 a year to run, with money coming from Western wildlife groups and the profits from a small tourist lodge that Bonham set up.

The work is a mix of education, development and conservation, he says. Big Life has built schools and the Maasai have been taught to use a global positioning system and bloodhounds to track poachers.

“There are several types of poacher. One group comes over from Tanzania. They are sometimes armed, sometimes bushmeat guys. Then there are gangs from Somalia and guys from the communities. People get shot. I’ve been threatened many times. But my game scouts are risking their lives every day out in the bush. So why should I be any different?

“The communities who live with these wild animals are spurred on by a new awareness and economic incentives made available through conservation. They now own and drive the process; they fight for conservation, not against it. One of our sergeants said to me the other day, when we found an elephant carcass with its face hacked away, ‘When I started this job I was just doing it for the money. Now, when I see this, I get angry … very angry.’” But he accepts his community game scout approach to conservation may not work everywhere.

“What we have done would not necessarily work in other areas, like Tsavo, which is eight times larger than Amboseli.” But it could be applied on its boundaries, he says. “In the long term, I think the only way that wildlife [in Africa] will be protected is with fences.”

The lessons have been learned over a lifetime on the frontline of conservation. Bonham’s parents came from a now extinct generation of British colonial wildlife guards. His father, Jack, was one of Kenya’s first game wardens and lost a leg to an elephant; his mother was the daughter of another warden. He himself is now known as Enkasi – “the white Maasai”.

“My first wildlife memory, at the age of five, was hanging on to my father’s shorts watching him shoot what at that time was considered vermin. It was a black rhino. For a very young kid to see his father shoot a rhino left a very strong impression. There was this huge dead animal.

My wife’s grandfather, also a colonial game warden, was given the task to shoot 1,000 rhino in one small area to clear land for settlement. That was only 60 years ago. Today a large part of my life is spent protecting the last eight remaining rhino from this very same population.

“It is extraordinary how things have changed. It was such a different world in those days. A game warden’s job then was anti-poaching and protection but a huge part of it was dealing with problem animals, like rogue elephants. There was only one form of control then, and that was lethal. You shot them.”

These days, he and his teams avoid killing where possible but predators such as leopards, lions, cheetahs and hyenas are a constant problem.

It’s a mystery to wildlife conservationists and animal welfare advocates how, with such high demand from mainland tourists (many of whom have little awareness of the poaching crisis in Africa), the total amount of “legal” ivory in Hong Kong has changed so little in the last three years. According to Hong Kong government statistics, the total stood at 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012 and 117.1 tonnes last year. In that time, the number of holders of licences to possess ivory increased from 431 to 447. So, why isn’t this stockpile going down?

The change from 2011 to 2012 is explained by the government as “a net increase of 2.2 tonnes of registered ivory from non-commercial to commercial purpose”.

It’s an open secret that many tourists who come to Hong Kong smuggle ivory products back home. Fines and penalties for ivory trafficking remain low: six-month sentences were handed down by a Hong Kong magistrate to 16 Vietnamese ivory traffickers caught red-handed at Chek Lap Kok airport in June.

Ivory-buying tourists are indirectly fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade – the fourth largest type of illegal trafficking, after those in drugs, arms and people. Furthermore, the sale of an ivory trinket from a store in Mong Kok, Sheung Wan or North Point could be financing terrorist militias in Africa, such as al-Shabab, Boko Haram or the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Hong Kong government, which says it still has 18 tonnes of seized illegal ivory from the 28 tonnes it began incinerating in May, could do so much more to raise awareness about this urgent issue. It could start by legislating for a complete ivory trade ban, to help save the magnificent African elephant before it’s too late.

Alex Hofford is founder of Hong Kong for Elephants and a wildlife campaigner for WildAid.

“An elephant can trample a crop in 10 minutes. This year we have had four people killed by them. We try to scare them. We have guys out at night. We use bangers and paintball guns to shoot chilly bombs. When one hits an elephant, they get a whiff and a sore nose. But they realise that big bangs are not dangerous. They learn.

“I am not optimistic [generally] about the elephant or the rhino. But there are solutions. The whole reason it is happening is because ivory is so valuable. You will never succeed with law enforcement on its own.

You must get the price down. There’s a lot of temptation.” According to Bonham, one elephant’s ivory can fetch as much as US$10,000.

“In the 1980s the market for ivory was Japan, Europe and the EU. The Bloody Ivory campaign educated people and the market fell.

“Kenya is passing a new wildlife act making killing an elephant much more serious. That helps. But you have to get the price to drop. Policing is not enough. It has to come from both ends. China, Kenya – everyone must act.”

Guardian News & Media

 

Hong Kong continues to be a hub for the illegal ivory trade

It is a little known fact that the blame for the elephant poaching crisis of the 1980s, which resulted in the global ivory ban of 1989, can be laid squarely at the feet of Hong Kong’s ivory traders. And they’re still at it.

Although it has been proven that Africa lost 100,000 elephants from 2010 to the end of 2012, no one in authority in Hong Kong is questioning how the city’s ivory traders are still able to dip into stocks that should have been depleted long ago. (Traders were allowed to keep and use any stocks of ivory they had when the 1989 ban came into effect.)

Local concern groups have recently been staging protests outside some of the stores that still openly sell ivory in the city – ivory that is almost certainly sourced from elephants killed illegally since 1989. A quick carbon-14 test to verify the age of the ivory would probably confirm this.

I met Richard Bonham, of the Big Life Foundation, while he was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, and was happy to share with him the data I have been collecting on the city’s dirty little ivory-trade secret, so he could take them to a wider audience. Looking at the graph I shared with Bonham (see page 30), it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that local ivory traders are topping up their supposedly legal stocks from somewhere.

The city’s ivory traders appear to be making fools of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Of course, much of the ivory smuggled into Hong Kong is bound for the mainland, but it seems probable that a substantial amount remains in the city, to be sold to tourists.

This article can be found in the following link: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1659309/asias-world-city-epicentre-ivory-trade

The difficulties of measuring elephant tusk and rhino horn exports

Ben Hamilton, The Guardian
9 December 2014
In mid-November, Interpol announced a list of nine wanted men involved with poaching and wildlife trade. One of these men was the alleged “ringleader of an ivory smuggling ring in Kenya”, Feisal Mohamed Ali.
Earlier in the year, 46 countries signed an agreement in London aimed at tackling the illegal wildlife trade.
But how much ivory is actually leaving Africa?
The Convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) keeps records and assigns quotas for any wildlife export, from live animals to skin samples. For elephants, CITES issues quotas to a few countries in Africa allowing the export of tusks, taking in account regional elephant populations and how much hunting would be sustainable.
In many countries, the sale of ivory is illegal, but the collection of tusks as hunting trophies is not. Many African countries claim that trophy hunting and the tourism it brings is valuable to their economy.
Below is a map of these exports since 2000. The red indicates the amount of tusks exported, and the dark circles indicate the countries quotas. The lighter red accounts for exports recorded as “trophies”. The blue areas shows the elephant population range.
Most of the exports occur in the south of the continent, despite the elephants’ range reaching through central Africa to the west.
South Africa appears to have consistently broken their quota which has been growing steadily from 86 in 2000 to 300 in 2013.
The largest exporter is Zimbabwe and the second largest is neighbouring Botswana. However, Zimbabwe never breaks its quota of 800 tusks, besides in 2003 when the quota was not renewed, only to return the following year at an increased 1,000.
Botswana breaks quota several times. In 2000, including “trophies”, Botswana exported 368 tusks, which is eight over its quota.
After years of high exports close to quota, in 2006 its quota is expanded to 540 and its exports increased in kind. In 2008 exports explode to 6,505. The following year its quota grew again to 800, but its exports shrink down to similar levels to before 2000.
Such an anomaly may be due to errors in reportage; each year, countries are required to fill out reports of how many exports and imports occurred for each species under CITES observation. When reports between importer and exporter don’t match, totals are counted twice.
This may also explain South Africa’s over exportation of ivory. However, a look into similar data for rhino horn unveils a familiar pattern.
Only two countries have been given quotas for the export of Rhino horn, Namibia and South Africa, both set at five horns. However, before these quotas were put in place in 2005, South Africa had been reportedly exporting horns, all of which belonged to the white rhino.
South Africa also recently reported that the amount of discovered poached rhinos in 2014 had exceeded 2013 numbers, reaching 1,020. This continues the trend since 2007 which has seen poached rhinos dramatically increase from just 13.
Again, though, many other countries have no recorded exports and very few recorded deaths. One CITES report claimed that 80% of 2013’s large scale seizures of ivory occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda, indicating a high threat of poaching. And yet, all these countries report relatively low levels of ivory or horn exports.
Keeping accurate records is vital to knowing what exactly is happening on the ground. These result can either be duplicated due to problems in standardising record keeping, or in the huge task of monitoring the trade.
There are also frequent accusations against governments in Africa and Asia, the end result for a lot of these items, in aiding poachers or smugglers, or fixing records.
Its from these records that population estimates are made and action plans can be created. With skewed data, intentionally or unintentionally, the fight to preserve species is that much harder.

Trafficking banned wildlife products moves onto social media: report (China)

Global Times
December 8, 2014
 Wang Hongjun (pseudonym), a 32-year-old businessman from Zhejiang Province in the auto industry, is busy chatting with a supplier on his WeChat account.
On the other end of the chat is not an automotive supplier but an ivory trader.
“I just ordered an ivory ring for my mother for 6,390 yuan ($1,038) from Guizhou Province. It was just like normal online shopping,” Wang said.
A recent survey conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that social networking platforms are becoming increasing popular for illegal trading protected animals and their derived products, such as ivory, adding to the already substantial difficulties facing China in its fight against wildlife trafficking.
Online trend
The IFAW study of wildlife trading online, conducted during early 2014, monitored 280 websites across 16 countries for six weeks.
The organization targeted protected species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The survey found a total of 33,006 endangered animal bodies and products for sale worldwide, with an estimated worth of about $11 million.
Twenty-one Chinese websites were monitored, with more than 18,590 items found on sale worth a total of $2.74 million. More than 78 percent were ivory products, according to the study’s report, entitled “Wanted — Dead or Alive, Exposing the Online Wildlife Trade” published by the IFAW on November 25.
The IFAW pointed out that a shift away from selling wildlife products via e-commerce to online forums and social media, such as Baidu Tieba and WeChat, has become a new trend.
The IFAW claimed that 55 percent of the items on sale in China were found on Baidu Tieba, which saw 1,154 listings recorded during the survey.
The ivory trade is permitted inside China, but only from a quota of 102 tons was permitted to purchase under a 2007 agreement meant to regulate the trade internationally. Chinese regulations require that every ivory carving company must obtain a license from the authorities and must employ at least one government-approved carving master. Regulations also require that every ivory product weighing more than 50 grams must be documented with photos and a certificate.
There are currently 37 licensed carving companies and 145 sales companies. Sales by other companies and individual are illegal.
Trading under an alias
A search for the Chinese term for ivory on Baidu Tieba, an online forum run by the Baidu search engine, yields a message saying “Under applicable laws and regulations, there are no results to display. Buying is killing, say no to ivory.”
But buyers and sellers never use the Chinese word for ivory, xiangya. Ivory is normally called “xy,” “xya” or “white plastic” online. “It has as many as 17 aliases online,” Wang said. An online forum on Baidu Tieba, named Xya, has 311 registered members and nearly 1,300 posts, with many trading information or pictures of ivory products.
A seller, known as Shenyubaby online, told the Global Times reporter posing as a buyer that he has sold four ivory items in the past two months online.
“First, I post advertisements on online forums or chat groups. Then buyers would contact with me via WeChat for details, such as price,” said the seller who claimed to have a stock of ivory in Fujian Province originally imported from Africa.
The seller sent 12 pictures of ivory products to the Global Times, ranging from raw ivory to accessories carved from ivory. They cost 36 to 100 yuan per gram.
“We can [meet] face-to-face but I also can send the goods to you. It’s safe and the express company will not check,” the seller said.
A dozen sellers reached by the Global Times seemed to do their business in similar ways.
One seller, surnamed Li, told the Global Times that they used to do their business on Taobao but had to shift to social networking platforms after the e-commerce site blocked his online shop, with many keywords related to the trade also blocked.
“WeChat and other social networking platforms are more private as we can talk to the buyers directly. It not easy for the authorities to find us since we don’t need to submit our personal information for account registration,” Li said.
Baidu shut down 24 online forums related to trafficking of endangered species in March 2012, according to Legal Weekly. However, the IFAW pointed out the situation has not improved greatly since then.
The use of aliases makes it difficult for authorities to chase or block the trade, said the report.
Seeking solutions
Wang Juan, a project director with the IFAW, told the Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn that social networks should take responsibility for cracking down on such sales.
The proprietors of social networks should develop techniques to filter and ban keywords related to the trade of protected animal products and warn their users, Wang said.
The IFAW suggested that government authorities need to introduce specific supervision of trading on social networks while better supervising logistics companies, Wang added.
China’s Criminal Law allows for sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment for trafficking or purchasing protected wildlife.
However, in order to tackle the new challenges posed by social media, officials and legal experts have asked for an amendment to the country’s animal protection law and related clauses in the Criminal Law.
“Legislation is the key to effectively supervising those websites and the logistics industry,” Zhang Libao, a senior official from the forest public security bureau under the State Forestry Administration, was quoted by the Beijing Daily.
Although China has been frequently criticized for its incompetence in stopping ivory smuggling and driving the illegal ivory trade through soaring demand, the country has stepped up efforts to regulate the ivory market and fight poaching.
On January 6, Chinese government destroyed 6.1 tons of confiscated ivory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, a first for the Chinese mainland.
Authorities also released information showing that China has investigated 930 criminal cases involving smuggling endangered species in the past decade, arresting and prosecuting 1,395 suspects.

Stop the carving: How China can help end elephant poaching

JOHN GRUETZNER, The Globe and Mail
Dec. 04 2014
John Gruetzner is the managing director of Intercedent, an Asian-focused investment advisory. He recently researched for the World Wildlife Fund its fund-raising options within China. The views here expressed are personal.
Chinese basketball star Yao Ming’s new documentary The End of the Wild will, ideally, have the impact in Asia that Silent Spring by Rachel Carson had on environmental awareness in the West.
For this shift to happen in sufficient enough time to save the elephant is contingent on major changes in government policy and also empowering Chinese citizens to join the war against poaching of elephants.
Chinese government indifference still sadly permits the legal carving of elephant tusks that drives the poaching of 70 per cent of the 33,000 African elephants killed annually.
If the wealthy could purchase Panda skins legally, this would rightly offend the Chinese people and be strongly condemned. Elephants are just as important culturally, and as natural a symbol as the Panda.
Wildaid’s slogan is Stop the Killing Now. A corollary is to achieve must be Stop the Carving Now. China’s ivory carving’s industry defense is that it relies only on legally sourced tusks. Incontrovertible evidence proves there is widespread mixing of legal and poached ivory.
Carving of dead elephant parts and all retail sales of ivory of any kind to lower total demand need to be banned worldwide starting in China. Funding the retraining of unemployed carvers will prevent the industry from going underground. Closing down the sale and carving of ivory at the 37 approved factories and 145 retail sites would be a major disruption to the total global demand for tusks.
Bold action long these lines would set a positive example to other countries in the same business. Sending a clear message to tourists that lowers off-shore purchases from Chinese will reduce the amount of tusks that are poached. Further work within China to educate people of the consequences such as supporting of terrorism tied to of smuggling illegal wildlife is essential.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to step up further to inform Chinese citizens of the implications of purchasing ivory abroad. Chinese diplomats in countries with elephants can expand their co-ordination with local police and custom’s authorities to stop smuggling.
Access to tusks needs to be made harder, expensive and risky to poachers and smugglers by expanding the financial support given to protect parks. Funds could be donated by the Chinese government to support the World Wildlife Fund, African Parks and The Earth Organization.
Chinese citizen’s donations to this cause can easily be encouraged. The Chinese government’s contribution would be to identify which legitimate non-governmental organizations that protect endangered species are permitted to solicit donations within China. Donations by Chinese citizens, using their individual yearly foreign exchange quota of $50,000, could easily solve this crisis. People that can afford Prada and Rolex can easily afford to contribute to protect global biodiversity.
Confucius stressed the virtue of not imposing. Poaching is negatively impacting China’s friendship with African countries. Soft power often requires hard political decisions to be implemented domestically.
The current Five Year Plan commitment to cleaning up of massive environmental problems, including stricter fines on polluters and substantial reductions of greenhouse gas, was highlighted during bi-lateral commitments made with the United States during the recent APEC summit.
Adopting the elephant as a national symbol of environmental protection will foster a domestic environmental movement to help support the greening of China called for by the government. It offers a unique opportunity to convince international sceptics that the Chinese Communist Party’s commitment to the environment is improving. China’s government can contribute to the important education of the public that basketball star Yao Ming and Jacky Chan the actor undertake.
Saving elephants is potentially a new icon for Chinese citizens to appreciate the value of nature and the importance of environmental protection. Elephants could play the same role in China that the Panda logo of the WWF has had globally. Protection of wildlife and our health are linked to the quality of the environment. Saving elephants presents an opportunity to vitalize indigenous Taoism – or in western terminology foster a new sense of romantic naturalism.

 

13 face ‘artefact theft plot’ trial

By PRESS ASSOCIATION

Thirteen men charged with plotting to steal rhinoceros horns and antique Chinese porcelain will face trial in April next year, a court has heard.

The defendants, aged between 25 and 67, were charged with conspiracy to steal last month after a nationwide inquiry into high-value museum and auction house thefts.

It is alleged that the men, from London, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Wolverhampton and Belfast, conspired with others at various locations to steal rhino horn and other artefacts worth £1,500,000 between September 2011 and August 2012.

A judge at Birmingham Crown Court today bailed 11 of the men until a plea hearing on March 20 next year.

One of the defendants, 44-year-old Danny O’Brien, of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, near Cambridge, was remanded in custody.

He appeared in court alongside Michael Hegarty, 42, and John O’Brian, 25, both also of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen; Ashley Dad, 34, of Crowther Road, Wolverhampton; John O’Brien, 67, of Fifth Avenue, Wolverhampton; Richard O’Brien, 29, of Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Billericay, Essex; Paul Pammen, 48, of Alton Gardens, Southend-on-Sea; Richard Sheridan, 45, of Water Lane, Smithy Fen; Donald Wong, 54, of Clapham Common South Side, Lambeth, London; Patrick Clarke, 32, of Melbourne Road, Newham, London; Alan Clarke, 36, also of Melbourne Road, Newham; and Terence McNamara, 46, of Marquis Street, Belfast.

Another defendant, 26-year-old Robert Gilbert-Smith, of no fixed address, was not required to attend the hearing.

A trial in the case, lasting around eight weeks, is expected to start on April 27.

This article can be found in the following link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-2855995/13-face-artefact-theft-plot-trial.html#ixzz3KkONr0Nr

Sensitise public to win war against poaching (Tanzania)

BY DANIEL SEMBERYA, The Guardian
1st December 2014
Poaching of elephants is a serious issue in southern Tanzania as well as other districts where elephants are free to stray outside the  national park surveillance.
Findings show that the number of elephants in two wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania indicated a sharp fall by more than 40 percent in just three years, as poachers increasingly killed the animals for their tusks.
Given the estimated total elephant population in Tanzania as being between 110,000 and 140,000; it was feared that with such a large drop in numbers over such a short period of time this may wipe out the country’s elephant population within 7 years.
Speaking to some selected media when handing over anti-poaching banners to the Julius Nyerere International Airport authority in Dar es Salaam last week, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s country Director Bell’Aube Houinato said in order for Tanzania to win the war against elephant poaching it needs to sensitise and raise awareness to the public.
Various reports cite Tanzania as the largest supplier of poached ivory and illegal wildlife trade.
“Evidence shows that in areas where people have been empowered and sensitised to appreciate and value what they have for the future generation, incidences of poaching have significantly dropped,” he explained.
He said poachers have been succeeding in their missions because they usually get cooperation from the local people around because of poverty among them.
He said the twenty banners they have given to JNIA have message written in Chinese language because China is the largest importer of poached ivory. Chinese prize ivory for decorative and medicinal value.
He said WWF has also established their office to China, which is the demand side to sensitise them on the impact of continuing involving in that illegal wildlife trade.
Meanwhile, WWF has trained JNIA’s Airport personnel from different units on how they can easily detect and identify products that are made of ivory.
“The trade is real and is happening in front of them.
“He said the training offered by WWF to Julius Nyerere International Airport staff is meant to empower them with skills that will enable them identify ivory products that have been passing in front of them unknowingly,” he noted.
“We are coming in as a civil society organisation and an international organisation to support airport staff through training, education, materials, raising awareness and ensuring they are able to curb the trade.”
WWF boss said that his organisation has started with JNIA, but they have plans in future to provide similar support to other airports and seaports in the country, because the borders are open,
Houinato said since Tanzania was a source, transit and consumer of ivory products, there should be effective measures at the ground so as to stop wildlife products on transit through its airports.
He said his organisation has been educating the local community on how to manage wildlife and eventually benefit out of them through the partnership with the government.
Speaking when receiving the banners offered by WWF, Julius Nyerere International Airport, (JNIA)’s Director Moses Malaki said the banners have been written in Chinese language to convey the message to the Chinese.
“We don’t oppress them, but it is a reality that the Chinese are the great dealers in this illegal ivory trade adding that of recent a Chinese national was apprehended after body check and found that he had rounded his whole body with beads,” he explained.
He said after the checking was intensified to detect and identify products made of ivory at the airport, many of these Chinese business people are now taking ivory products being turned into the form of beads and bracelets. And worse enough they make big holes in some carvings and insert some ivory made products.
“Previously checking at the airport had focused mainly at detecting weapons, knives and other sharp instruments that hijackers could easily use to hijack aircraft, as a result many business people used that loop hole to transit ivory products and drugs through the airport unnoticed,” he revealed.
He said this new crime of taking outside national trophy is the one that forced the airport authority to request WWF who knows and can easily identify all products made of wildlife products to come and train their personnel on how to detect ivory products that have been passing through the airport undetected.
“We are joining hands with the government to wage war against poaching, that why this training involves the police, airport staff, people dealing cargos, security people and other government machinery.”
These personnel are being trained to detect and identify things that are made of ivory and stop their transit through the airport.
“The objective of the training is to empower them with important knowledge that will enable them identify the various items that have been prohibited by the government.”
He said, “Previously we lacked this knowledge because when we detected foreign thing in one of the bags of passengers we had to wait for officials from wildlife section, and sometimes we had to delay the journey of that passenger. But with this training these trained officials will no longer wait for officials from the wildlife section to come and identify the unknown thing.”
Other key stakeholders in the sector are of the opinion that if concerted efforts are not taken by the government, elephant extinction in Tanzania would bring serious consequences in the tourism industry.
Presently, the estimated number of African elephants is about 0.5 million in the entire African range states.
Tanzania recently has lost more elephants to poaching than any other country. In 2013, it lost 10,000 – or 27 a day.
The country had 142,000 elephants in 2005; the agency predicted that, at the current death rate, the number would fall to about 55,000 in 2015. The elephant population at the Selous reserve alone fell from 70,000 in 2006 to just 13,000 in 2013.
Because of its scarcity, ivory also is an investment commodity.
Report show that Tanzania is the biggest source of illegal ivory seized around the world.
Elephants are slaughtered at the parks – Selous, a reserve in southern Tanzania, is one of the hardest hit.
The ivory is collected in villages and brought to the port in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital. It is loaded into freighters and shipped to destinations in Asia, including Hong Kong, Manila and Haiphong, Vietnam, before ending up in China, where it is cut, carved and sold as decoration or used in medicine.
None of this would be possible without the cooperation of Tanzanian authorities, said Shruti Suresh, an EIA wildlife campaigner.
“Seeing that there are several tonnes of ivory going through government posts, past government officials, it is clear that this corruption permeates through the highest levels of government,” Suresh said.
The insatiable demand for ivory, mostly from Asia, has had devastating consequences for elephant populations.
The environmental agency said Tanzania had lost two-thirds of its elephants in less than a decade, mostly to poachers.

Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants

Andreas Wilson-Spath, Daily Maverick
November 28, 2014
While the crisis is complex, with root causes in chronic poverty, the absence of sustainable economic alternatives and a burgeoning demand for wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn, the wheels of this multi-billion dollar industry are liberally greased by bribery and corruption at all levels of government in several African countries.
Even a cursory summary of the epidemic’s lowlights, makes for depressing reading:
Tanzania
Fast becoming Africa’s chief source of illicit ivory, Tanzania has lost two-thirds of its elephants to poaching since 2006. Collusion between corrupt government officials and criminal syndicates has been identified as the root cause. Game rangers provide critical information to poachers, police officers supply guns, Tanzanian Revenue Authority officers release containers of ivory for export, and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party functionaries offer high-level protection for trafficking operations.
In 2012 a list of individuals involved in elephant poaching, including prominent politicians, was handed to President Jakaya Kikwete. The following year, four CCM members of parliament, among them the party’s Secretary-General, Abdulrahman Kinana, were named for their involvement. None of the individuals implicated have been investigated further or arrested.
In 2013, Tanzania’s Auditor General criticised the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Division for the significant quantities of stockpiled elephant tusks that have gone missing while in its care and for under-reporting official poaching figures.
Earlier this year, police officers supplied poachers with weapons and access to the famed Selous Reserve, taking delivery of the ivory once five elephants had been killed.
A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report notes that “the highest levels of the Tanzanian government” are ultimately responsible for the decimation of the country’s elephant population by failing to ensure that wildlife laws are enforced and by not achieving higher conviction rates when cases are brought to court.
Zambia
In 2013, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, dismissed Edwin Matokwani, the Director-General of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) along with a number of his colleagues on the basis of malpractice and corruption involving commercial hunting companies.
In the same year, Defence Minister, Geoffrey Mwamba, was caught at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport with three large bags of elephant tusks. He was released without charge after claiming diplomatic immunity. The tusks were confiscated by ZAWA, but reappeared in the luggage of a Chinese diplomat at the same airport two days later. No further action was taken.
Mozambique
Poaching incidents reported to the Mozambican police and border guard are rarely followed up, cases are known to be squashed pending the payment of bribes, and offenders are released uncharged after a “deposit” of cash has been made.
A “web of official complicity” involving administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado, including the Criminal Investigation Police, prosecuting attorneys and the courts, facilitates the industrial-scale elephant slaughter in the region. Government officials are known to have supplied poachers with high-calibre weapons, provided access to protected areas and smoothed the transportation of ivory and rhino horn out of the country.
In 2010, twelve elephants were killed in Mecula District using weapons supplied by police. The following year, eight Frontier Guard members were caught selling 350 kilograms of seized ivory. Instead of facing punishment, they were transferred to a different area.
Since 2012, several tonnes of ivory have disappeared from Mozambique’s official stockpile. High-level collusion by government officials is suspected.
The ruling Frelimo party stands accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales from more than 50 elephants poached in Niassa National Reserve with military equipment to fund its 2012 congress in Pemba.
In return for a bribe, airport customs officers in Maputo are known not to search luggage leaving the country, while customs and police officers provide similar services for containers shipped out of Pemba by Chinese timber companies. Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Majante has been accused of facilitating the passage of ivory and other contraband through Pemba’s airport and harbour.
A considerable proportion of the hundreds of poachers arrested or killed in the Kruger National Park have been members of the Mozambican army, police and border guard.
Uganda
Earlier this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was asked to assist in the apprehension of high-ranking government officials involved in illegal wildlife trafficking. No action was taken.
This month, more than a tonne of stockpiled ivory went missing from a Ugandan government vault. A local newspaper claims that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials in cahoots with traffickers are responsible for widespread ivory theft. Since then, six top UWA employees, including executive director Andrew Seguya, have been suspended pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Sudan
Militias allied to the Sudanese government are alleged to engage in elephant poaching operations as far afield as Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), trafficking ivory via the government in Khartoum and its military.
South Sudan
Ending in 2005, the two-decade-long war between south and north Sudan reduced the local elephant population from more than 80 000 to less than 5000. Since then, ongoing internal military conflict between the official government army and rebel forces threatens to eradicate it altogether as soldiers butcher elephants and other wildlife for meat and ivory.
DRC
The DRC’s army is believed by many observers to be the leading poacher in the vast eastern regions of the country. Until leaving in 2011, Uganda’s occupying People’s Defence Force was also linked to poaching.
South Africa
A number of key officials canvassed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 2012 consider corruption connected to wildlife crime to be rife in South Africa, particularly with regards to issuing of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) permits. Formal action against corrupt officials remains the exception.
Zimbabwe
Elite members of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF are controlling increasingly large tracts of wildlife areas in the country and some are believed to be supplementing their foreign currency income through elephant and rhino poaching there.
In 2013, poachers allegedly linked to well-know senior ZANU-PF members, police officers and Zimbabwe Wildlife Management officials used cyanide to kill more than 100 elephants in Hwange National Park (HNP).
This year, the country’s last free-roaming elephant herd, which is supposedly protected from hunting and culling by a Presidential decree, has come under threat. Defying a government directive, a woman named Elisabeth Pasalk, whose brother is a hunting safari operator, has illegally claimed part of the herd’s home range, established a safari lodge and declared the area a ‘conservancy’ – a common euphemism for ‘hunting concession’. Conservationists believe that the takeover was supported by “political influence from high places”, that illicit hunting is part of Pasalk’s plans and that the Presidential Elephants are the intended target. The Zimbabwean government has done nothing about the situation.
Time to act
The evidence is overwhelming: African governments are complicit in the wholesale slaughter of the continent’s wildlife heritage.
A number of them have made public commitments to stem the poaching tide. Tanzania, for instance, is a signatory of the 2014 London Conference Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade which calls for zero tolerance on corruption and President Kikwete has recently spoken in favour of a moratorium on all ivory sales. Yet Kikwete’s government has shown little intention of turning these promises into reality and remains deeply implicated in the disaster.
What’s needed is the political will to take drastic action – to identify and investigate corrupt activities related to wildlife crime at every level of government, to remove corrupt individuals – many of them well known – from office and to prosecute them under the provisions of the criminal justice system.
The international community, including CITES, bears part of the responsibility. By not fighting corruption vigorously enough, not sanctioning governments known to be corrupt, not enforcing international law, not establishing a total ban on international and domestic trading in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife commodities, and not calling for the destruction of all government stockpiles of such goods, they too are complicit in the unfolding catastrophe.
In July, the EIA and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) called on the US government to implement trade sanctions against Mozambique for its complicity in the slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa. President Obama’s government is yet to heed this urgent call.
Eradicating corruption will not end the disaster. But if we don’t stop the systemic corruption which is facilitating it, Africa’s poaching crisis will be terminal – an extermination order for rhinos, elephants, lions, pangolins and countless other irreplaceable species that will not survive the century in the face of unbridled human greed.