Tag Archives: illegal ivory

Poaching is more than an enforcement problem

Science Daily
January 21, 2014

Jan. 21, 2014 — Illegal poaching, fueled by the demand for alternative ‘medicines’ and luxury goods in Asian markets, continues unabated. In response unprecedented levels of funding are being invested in enforcement, while events such as China’s public burning of confiscated ivory, serve to publicize the problem.

However, research in Conservation Letters asks if these measures are repeating the mistakes of the ‘War on Drugs’ as they lack a long-term strategy to tackle the growing wealth gap between African areas of supply and Asian centers of demand, which remains a central dynamic to the problem..

The authors also show how trading bans can drive up the price of poached goods, which in turn encourages the involvement of organized criminals who operate like drug cartels.

“Much of the current narrative on responses to poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is centered on increasing enforcement efforts and anti-poaching measures. We argue that this approach risks making the same mistake as the ‘war on drugs’, because it doesn’t address the real drivers of poaching. For example, increasing demand in East Asia and growing relative poverty nationally and internationally,” said Daniel Challender from the University of Kent. “To conserve species’ we need to build capacity to do so within local communities and consider supply-based approaches and demand reduction programs based on further research.”

Chinese arrested with 3kg ivory at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Kenya)

By CYRUS OMBATI, Standard Digital

January 19th 2014
NAIROBI, KENYA: A Chinese national was Saturday arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after being found with 3.4 kilograms of ivory.
The 40-year-old man was found with the lower ivory while from Napula, Mozambique to Guangzhou, China. His plane had touched down at JKIA and was to connect when he was seized.
Police said the ivory was in his luggage and had been packaged in disguise as cups.
Airport CID boss Joseph Ngisa said the arrest was made on Saturday evening and that the man will appear in court today to face charges of being in possession of the ivory.
“We are seeing an increase of these suspects originating Mozambique with the ivory but we are keen to stop the practice,” said Ngisa.
His arrest came two days after another Chinese national was arrested with ivory, leopards’ skin and multiple passports. He is believed to be behind a number of cases of smuggling of people and ivory in the country, police said.
The 41-year-old suspect was arrested at an apartment Thursday with goods valued at millions of shillings in the posh Riverside estate, Nairobi.
This comes even as Kenya and Chinese government are collaborating to fight poaching and illegal trade of wildlife.
The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s. Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). East African nations have recently recorded an increase in poaching incidents.
The illegal ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicines.
Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching and the illegal trade in game trophies, as well as a rising human population that is causing habitat loss. To demonstrate the seriousness and commitment to end the menace, China recently crushed six tones of the ivory.

Opinion: China’s Ivory Crush Is Important First Step

Bryan Christy, National Geographic
January 8, 2014

In a surprising step, China this week became the latest in a growing number of countries to publicly destroy large quantities of ivory to bring attention to the global trade in illegal ivory. From any angle, China’s move has important and positive implications for the fight against an illegal ivory trade that is killing tens of thousands of African elephants every year.

Still, not all ivory destruction ceremonies are alike, and when it comes to the illegal ivory trade, China is not just any country.

“Wildlife trafficking has become a serious problem, and illegal trade of ivory and wildlife products is increasing,” China’s State Forestry Administration declared in a statement to the United Nations explaining its decision to destroy 6.1 tons of its ivory this week. The destruction was conducted “for the purpose of raising public awareness, and demonstrating China’s resolve to combat wildlife trafficking.”

China’s destruction ceremony comes on the heels of similar acts by the United States (six tons) and the Philippines (five tons), both of which crushed their entire national ivory stocks last year. Together these three events represent the first time in history that non-African countries have publicly destroyed their ivory.

Not All Ivory Destructions Are Alike

The destruction of illegal ivory has become perhaps the most recognizable and powerful symbolic act in wildlife conservation, starting in 1989 when Kenya’s President Daniel arap Moi, flanked by paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, set fire to 12 tons of ivory.

Orange flames rising from that pile of tusks shocked the world and inspired parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to enact a global ban on international trade in ivory later that year.

What made Kenya’s action so significant was the sacrifice that the burning of its ivory represented: Burning ivory equaled burning cash, especially in a world before the ivory ban.

After the global ban on the ivory trade went into effect, elephant populations that had been decimated by poachers began to recover. The ban held for ten years until 1999, when CITES allowed a “one-time” experimental sale of 50 tons of ivory to Japan. The ivory trade ban took a second hit in 2008 when CITES allowed a second sale of 102 tons of ivory to Japan and China.

By all accounts, that second sale was a disaster. The Chinese economy was simply too hot, and global law enforcement too weak, to prevent the 2008 sale from opening the floodgates to a massive illegal ivory trade between Africa and China, resulting in the current bloodbath for African elephants.

In the wake of a poaching and trafficking crisis, countries have again turned to ivory destruction ceremonies to bring attention to the problem. In 2011 Kenya hosted a burn of 5.5 tons of ivory belonging to a number of African nations (but did not burn any of its own stock). Gabon burned its ivory in 2012.

Symbolic Acts Backed Up With Action

Importantly, destroying ivory stocks has been a symbolic act accompanied in each case by parallel action. Kenya’s 1989 ivory burn was not only a symbolic act for the world, it was also a tangible act of defiance against Zimbabwe and a handful of other pro-ivory-trade southern African countries that opposed an ivory ban. Likewise, Gabon’s burn said “no” to proposals to open Africa to ivory trading that were then actively being floated.

The Philippines ivory destruction ceremony was accompanied by an announcement of the launch of a new wildlife trafficking enforcement unit and an acknowledgment that the Philippines could not protect its ivory warehouse, which had been frequently robbed.

The United States, too, had more to say. The ivory destruction ceremony in Denver put a physical face on President Obama’s new cabinet-level Wildlife Trafficking Task Force, formed in part to recognize that wildlife trafficking is a national security issue, especially when it comes to ivory. Officials used the ivory destruction ceremony to float the idea of a nationwide ban on domestic ivory sales in the United States, not just on imports or exports. That idea is now gaining momentum in Washington and around the country.

The question is, what is the parallel message from China? Unlike any of these other countries, which all oppose international trade in ivory, China supports it. In fact, China is the world’s leading ivory consumer, legal and illegal, and it is home to the world’s biggest ivory-carving factory.

What Does This Mean for China?

Certainly, publicity from its ivory crush will help the Chinese government inform its public that not all ivory in China is legal. A survey conducted as part of the documentary Battle for the Elephants indicated that nearly 60 percent of Chinese believe that making ivory “illegal to purchase under any circumstances” under “the strong recommendation of a government leader” would be the most effective way to stop ivory trading.

So the crush has implications in terms of public awareness and demand reduction.

Yet China’s wildlife department, the State Forestry Administration, has a history of cooking the books when it comes to ivory policy. As I reported in Blood Ivory, in order to gain CITES approval to buy ivory in 2008, China made many small ivory seizures to improve its law enforcement rating even though it made no significant inroads against crime.

Likewise, China and Japan joined forces to manipulate the 2008 ivory auction prices and, rather than undercut the black market with cheap ivory as many hoped the sale would do, those in the government ivory industry raised prices, inviting more illegal trade, not less.

China’s ivory crush is to be commended on a level having nothing to do with wildlife directly. As I discovered during my three-year investigation of the international ivory trade for National Geographic, one of the primary uses of the very valuable sculptures carved in China’s legal ivory factories is as bribes to curry favor with superiors in government or to influence business clients. IFAW’s Grace Ge Gabriel has pointed out that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s austerity program has targeted corruption at all levels of government, with the consequence of reducing sales of luxury items, including shark fin soup and, potentially, ivory.

So far, the world has been unable to police the killing of elephants that has exploded after the legal ivory market was opened in China. Chinese wildlife department officials have repeatedly denied that China’s ivory industry is responsible for Africa’s poaching problem. As recently as last year, China’s CITES delegate Wan Ziming called upon delegates to allow sales to China of not only ivory from elephants that died of natural causes, but also of ivory seized in police actions.

Destroying such ivory this week suggests a possible change in thinking among wildlife department officials. Or, better still, maybe it suggests that more than China’s wildlife department is now listening.

In China, you don’t have to look far to find illegal ivory

Oscar Holland and Suia Chen, The Independent

January 1, 2014
The country accounts for 70 per cent of global ivory demand, but awareness is growing

Shopkeepers hunch over takeaway boxes at Beijing’s Dongfangbobao Market as sporadic lunchtime visitors wander between displays of jade, gold, bronze and bone curios. The market’s sleepy air belies its past as a dependable source of illegal ivory. Enquiries for “elephant teeth,” as it is known in Chinese, are now met with dismissive waves.

Antique dealer Ren Wenzhuo produces an intricately carved pendant from a glass display case before retrieving three more trinkets from a locked safe, each costing between 6,000 and 7,000 RMB (£607-708). But these small pieces, one of which allegedly dates from the 18th century, are of little concern to Chinese authorities. It is newly smuggled items that directly contribute to the decimation of Africa’s elephant population.

“We used to sell new ivory here but not any more,” says Ren. “Haven’t you seen the news? Ivory is like tiger skins; it harms animals.”

Dongfangbobao appears to be one of the latest targets of a reported government crackdown on illegal ivory marked by awareness campaigns in state-owned media, tougher sentences for unlicensed dealers and contraband seizures.

But the capital’s ivory shoppers need not look far for the coveted “white gold.”

Just over a mile north at Beijing Curio City, customers can find celestial scenes, imperial ships, and herds of water buffaloes carved from full-length elephant tusks. Accreditation certificates hang on the walls and each piece comes with a registration number.

By legitimising the sale of ivory sourced from natural elephant deaths, culls and police seizures, the registration system was introduced in 2004 to cut prices and profits in the black market. It has had the reverse effect. The wholesale price of ivory has tripled over the last nine years.

Legal retailers regularly use their businesses as a cover for unlawful sales. An investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2011 found that almost 60 percent of authorised sellers and carving factories were involved in some form of laundering. Vendors regularly discourage customers from taking products’ identity cards and reuse them with illicit items.

Conservationists believe that the very existence of a licensed trade only serves to fuel demand in China, where ivory carving is considered a traditional art form. Revered as a status symbol by the country’s growing middle classes, ivory is also seen as a lucrative bet for investors facing diminishing returns on equity and real estate.

While the international ban in 1989 is widely credited with curtailing trade in the West, China is now the largest ivory market in the world and accounts for an estimated 70 per cent of global demand.

Its continued popularity may stem from a lack of knowledge about the scale and environmental impact of the trade, according to WildAid, the wildlife protection group behind a new awareness campaign. The organisation is using high-profile figures to highlight poaching and the quantity of illegal products in the Chinese market.

Fronting the campaign is former NBA basketball player and Olympic flag bearer Yao Ming, whose public influence in the recent campaign against shark fin soup has been widely lauded.

The drive appears to have yielded remarkable results. During this year’s Spring Festival, when shark fin soup is commonly eaten, the Chinese Commerce Ministry reported a 70 per cent drop in consumption compared with the previous year.

This success sets an encouraging precedent for ivory campaigners, according to WildAid’s chief representative in China, May Mei.

“Things move so quickly in China and as we are seeing with shark fin, it is possible to make a completely desirable product quickly unfashionable,” she says.

Mei also credits a government ban on the soup at official banquets with the turnaround in demand.

“If the government takes a strong stance on ivory, such as announcing no further legal imports or announcing a ban [on] officials giving ivory as gifts, the impact will be enormous,” she argues.

There have been promising signs from Chinese authorities. In the first conviction of its kind, a court in Fujian Province sentenced a licensed dealer found importing and selling illegal products to 15 years in prison in May.

Moves to curb illegal sales on unregulated online marketplaces have also seen the government ban all online wildlife trade and monitor key search terms. Conservation groups are working with search engine giant Baidu to purge illegal wildlife listings and shut down forums that facilitate black-market trade.

But with as many as 100 African elephants killed a day, attempts to tame this vast and elusive industry remain frustratingly, and perhaps fatally, slow. Although Illegal ivory is shrinking from view in markets like Dongfangbobao, its place in Chinese consumers’ eyes continues to pose the single greatest threat to the species’ survival.

Trading in death ‘for a fast buck’: Heathrow ivory seizures hit record

Justin Davenport, London Evening Standard
02 December 2013

Heathrow airport is at the centre of a booming trade in illegal ivory, with most of it being carried by big-name courier companies.

Border officials are making record seizures, the vast majority taken from newly slaughtered African elephants.

Often disguised as African handicrafts, the contraband is being smuggled in small packages that transit Heathrow on their way to China.

The trade is being driven by the economic boom in China and the Far East, where ivory is seen as a symbol of status and wealth. Chinese workers employed in Africa are buying up ivory to send home, making huge profits.

The illegal goods are sent via the big courier firms, who route packages via Heathrow and other European hub airports unaware of their contents.

Last year a specialist UK Border Force team made 50 seizures of ivory weighing 80.7kg at British airports — compared with just 3.3kg in 2010. Most was at Heathrow. The number of seizures is thought to be a fraction of the amount being smuggled.

Grant Miller, senior officer on the team, said the packages were all falsely described as “handicrafts” and always addressed to Chinese individuals, most of them in the big cities of Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

Most of the ivory had been transformed into intricately carved jewellery and decorations such as bangles, beads, medallions, and name blocks. They were often wrapped in tinfoil in a misguided attempt to hide them from scanners.

Some had been made to look like electrical circuits with wires attached, while one piece from a baby elephant was painted black to make it appear like wood. The UK Border Force team is training customs officers in Africa and Hong Kong to detect the contraband.

Mr Miller said the trade was driven by greed, and the new-found wealth of the middle classes in countries such as China and Vietnam.

“Workers in Africa are posting smaller consignments in courier packages that get routed through London,” he said. “These are Chinese workers taking opportunity to make a fast buck by sending ivory home. People see rhino horn and ivory as a status symbol.

“If you look at the poaching levels there is no way you can see this getting better, the figures are going through the roof. We are at a critical stage in terms of environmental issues, if we do not take this seriously we will lose [threatened species].

“What is positive is people like Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and now the UK are sitting up and saying enough is enough.”

U.S. plans to destroy 6 tons of seized illegal ivory

By Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News

Six tons of illegal ivory that has been seized by the U.S. government will be destroyed in an effort to discourage sales of accessories and art made from elephant tusks, the U.S. Department of Interior said Monday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to crush six tons of ivory that the U.S. government has confiscated since commercial ivory was banned in 1989, announced Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an increased demand for ivory jewelry, decorations and trinkets has provoked poachers to kill about 30,000 African elephants each year.

Members of WWF and IFAW hope that destroying the seized ivory will relay a message to those who buy and sell ivory in the U.S.

“By crushing this ivory stockpile, the U.S. government is sending a signal. If we’re going to solve this crisis we have to crush the demand, driven by organized crime syndicates who are robbing the world of elephants,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF.

IFAW spokeswoman Cynthia Carson said that she believes the incentive will remind people that ivory comes from elephants, saying that many people separate the product from “dead elephants” in their minds.

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said that the U.S. has to be “part of the solution” in combating elephant poaching since American buyers are such a big part of the problem. “Much of the world’s trade in wild animal and plant species — both legal and illegal — is driven by U.S. consumers or passes through our ports on the way to other nations,” he said.

WWF illegal wildlife trade expert, Crawford Allan, said, “seizures of illegal wildlife products happen at ports all across the U.S. — from Manhattan to Louisville to Denver.”

Carson said that while most of the ivory is apprehended from black market smugglers, some is also taken from tourists returning to the U.S.

Allan added that Ivory was even being sold in disguise on the e-commerce website Etsy, until measures were recently implemented to halt the illegal sales.

“The key message of this crush is that ivory is not a legitimate consumer product — it should only belong to elephants,” Carson said.

Bonello said that the massive haul of ivory will be crushed starting October 8, in Denver, Colorado. She said it was still “to be determined” what would happen with the pulverized remains.

This article is from the following  link:http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/09/20408100-us-plans-to-destroy-6-tons-of-seized-illegal-ivory?lite