Tag Archives: black market

First time rhino, ivory products returned: Hawks (South Africa)

Catrine Malan, Jacaranda FM

27 November 2013

A consignment of ivory products and rhino horn with an estimated value of R23 million on the black market is the first such seizure returned to South Africa, the Hawks said on Wednesday.

“It’s a first for us,” Colonel Johan Jooste told reporters in Johannesburg.

“We are very proud of everybody pulling together to bring it back.”

The consignment was seized in Hong Kong in November 2011. It took South Africa more than a year to retrieve the items, he said.

The National Prosecuting Authority, the departments of environmental affairs and international relations, and the police forensic laboratory had combined to formulate an application to get the consignment back.

Thirty-three rhino horns, 758 ivory chopsticks, and 127 ivory bracelets were returned.

“We started engaging with our counterparts in Hong Kong to see if we can root out this smuggling of rhino horn into the international market,” Jooste said.

“It took us over one year to bring back the items that were seized and also obtain documentary evidence that would give us more background and assist in investigations.”

He said the Hawks looked forward to the next stage of the investigation, which would be forensic evaluation of the rhino horns.

The chopsticks and ivory bracelets seemed to have been manufactured by custom-made machines, but it was too early to make a conclusion, he said.

“We are still investigating but we believe modern technology was used to process ivory items, locally and abroad.”

Environmental affairs department deputy director general Fundisile Mketeni said the return of the seized items was a result of ongoing engagements with the Asian bloc.

“When we heard about the consignment last year we visited Hong Kong… we are doing our part as environmental affairs.”

He said South Africa had an existing memorandum of understanding with China and was now negotiating with Hong Kong.

This was because Hong Kong was the main entry point for goods leaving South African shores.

The department said the number of rhino poached in the country this year was 891 compared to 668 last year, and 448 in 2011.

Since January 2013, 548 rhino had been poached in the Kruger National Park, 89 in Limpopo, 82 in the North west, 79 in KwaZulu-Natal, and 77 in Mpumalanga.

The total number of people arrested for rhino poaching reached 310 this week, the department said.

Death in China, one dollar in Africa – the irony of ivory poaching penalties

SHARON VAN WYK, Daily Maverick

23 Oct 2013

In China the penalty for poaching an elephant is death. In Africa, it is considerably less. The irony in this is that the global trade in illegal ivory is driven, for the most part, by China, some of whose citizens are helping to lay waste to Africa’s elephants, largely without fear of retribution. By SHARON VAN WYK.

Earlier this year a Chinese smuggler, apprehended in Kenya whilst in transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Hong Kong, was fined a mere US$350 for the haul of 439 pieces of ivory found in his possession before being released. That’s less than US$1 apiece.

This one incident illustrates perhaps the biggest challenge facing those battling to save Africa’s elephant population from almost certain extinction at the hands of ivory poachers – outdated, and in some cases woefully inadequate legislation and penalties which, rather than acting as a deterrent, actually encourage poaching.

Add to the mix corruption and political malfeasance at virtually every level of government, and the word extinction looms larger than ever, unless swift action is taken by African countries to improve the laws supposedly protecting their wildlife. Justice is most certainly not on the side of elephants.

In Kenya the current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings (around US$470), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years. With a black market price of as much as US$7,000 per kilogram, it is infinitely affordable to get caught with your fingers in the ivory jar. Which is what happened to four Chinese citizens who were apprehended attempting to smuggle thousands of dollars’ worth of ivory out of Kenya. Their punishment? Each was allowed to pay a US$340 fine and then go free.

Kenya is far from alone. In neighbouring Uganda, poachers are punished on the same level as petty criminals with small fines or suspended sentences. In Gabon a woeful maximum one-year sentence or approximately US$40,000 awaits convicted poachers, including repeat offenders, while wildlife traffickers in the Republic of Congo face up to five years in jail and risk having their sentence doubled if they are found to be repeat offenders.

Court punishment for a convicted elephant poacher in Tanzania can be as little as US$13. Tanzanian officials have said that in 670 cases tried between March 2012 and March this year, fines totalling US$109,377 were incurred. That’s an average of just under US$164 per case.

The recent cyanide poisoning of waterholes in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by ivory poachers, which claimed the lives of more than 90 elephants, was met with surprisingly swift retribution by the country’s wildlife authorities, with three poachers each sentenced to 16 years behind bars and a collective massive fine of US$800,000.

However, recent reports from the Zimbabwe press suggest that the reason for this unusually harsh (for Zimbabwe) punishment is to deflect attention away from possible high-ranking government involvement in the killing.

The question, then, is whether it is possible to get it right in the fight against the ivory trade. In this respect African states can take their lead from Botswana, where effective anti-poaching is supported by strong leadership and political will from President Ian Khama and an effective judiciary, backed by tough wildlife legislation and strong involvement of the military. Indeed, the Botswana Defense Force is deployed to protect not just elephants, but all of the country’s wildlife.

Elephant range states are being urged to give similar unequivocal commitment to the implementation of necessary legislation, law enforcement and deterrent penalties needed to stem elephant poaching and the related illegal trade and trafficking in ivory at the forthcoming International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Government of Botswana Emergency African Elephant Summit which is being held in Botswana’s capital of Gaborone from December 2-4 this year.

The Summit is being hosted by President Khama and will bring together heads of state and representatives from both African elephant range states and key ivory trade transit and destination countries. DM

Sharon van Wyk is an award-winning conservation writer and wildlife documentary maker and works with the Conservation Action Trust – www.conservationaction.co.za