Tag Archives: illegal trade

China bemoans its people’s behavior in Africa—including undergarment ivory smuggling (Tanzania)

By Lily Kuo, Quartz
July 14, 2014
China is a major economic presence in Africa, injecting billions of dollars in trade and economic assistance to build out the continent’s infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that Chinese companies are always on their best behavior. According to Lu Youqing, China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Chinese businesses are constantly causing problems as they fight over contracts and try to bribe local official.
“Our people just cannot shake their bad habits,” Lu said, in an interview (link in Chinese) with the Chinese paper Southern Metropolis News yesterday. “Tanzania hosts ambassadors from about 70 countries, but none of them needs to constantly worry like us about consular protection issues,” Lu added.
China’s growing investment and business ties with African countries has long been a subject of criticism among observers within and outside of Africa. Recently, Chinese leaders have also taken to admitting to problems while describing them as just “growing pains” in Sino-African relations. But rarely have officials been as frank as Lu, especially regarding one of China’s oldest African allies and top foreign investment destinations.
Lu complained about Chinese nationals attempting to smuggle ivory out of Tanzania, one of the world’s main ports for smuggling the banned animal product—hiding the illegal commodity under the hoods of their cars or even inside their undergarments. China is the world’s top destination (pdf, p. 30) for illicit ivory, according to the United Nations, and the thousands of Chinese nationals working in Tanzania have only exacerbated the illegal trade.
These problems don’t appear to have impacted ties too much. After Chinese firms plowed $2.5 billion into Tanzania last year, China has become Tanzania’s largest foreign investor, and Tanzania is currently pushing for ways to attract more Chinese tourists.

China reaffirms pledge to fight illegal ivory trade

By ABDUEL ELINAZA, Tanzania Daily News
March 02, 2014

China has said some western media reports implicating the country in the illegal ivory trade are “misleading” intentionally and are targeting to derail the long mutual friendship and cooperation between it and African states.

Beijing has also insisted that it strongly opposes the trade even as western media have been linking the country with illegal trade of ivory on the back of long term and historical relations with Africa.

The Director-General in the Department of Africa Affairs of Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mr Lu Shaye, said here yesterday some western media are reporting that the increase of illegal trade of ivory and some serious poaching in Africa (Tanzania) have increased due to huge demand from China.

“…Such information is misleading the whole world… why are they (western) doing this? They want to discourage the friendship and cooperation between China and Africa,” Mr Lu, who once served in Africa as China’s Senegal ambassador, said.

The Director was responding to ‘Sunday News’ questions regarding the China stance on illegal ivory trade and its assistance to Tanzania and Kenya in fighting against poaching.

“As a matter of fact China is not the only country that has ivory artifacts, a lot others have, for example Japan and other Southeast Asia countries have…it’s the same case with the UK.

“Prince William of UK Royal Family–as a wildlife conservationist (vows) to destroy all ivory artifacts of Royal Family to show his determination to fight against illegal trade of ivory,” the Director, known here as Mr Africa, said.

He said China is more than willing to work with Africa to fight against the poaching and illegal trade of ivories: “as a matter of fact China conducted joint operations with some Africa countries including Tanzania and Kenya…going forward China will step-up efforts by providing more assistance to Africa to fight against the trade”.

Recently UK’s Daily Mail reported that Tanzania government turned a blind eye to the fight against blood ivory trade which compelled the government to strongly blast the newspaper over its report saying it was one sided.

The Daily Mail article carried the headline: “Tanzania slaughters over 11,000 elephants a year for the bloody trade in tusks and its President turns a blind eye.

”China recently destroyed six tonnes of confiscated ivory, raising hopes for progress in the war against illicit trade in the commodity, most of which comes from Africa.

The ceremony, largely symbolic, was conducted in the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, according to news reports and a release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Along with burning its ivory stockpile, China has increased some of its enforcement against illegally trading ivory, with the arrest last month of five poachers in Jilin Province, a record, the WCS said in its release.

“We congratulate China’s government for showing the world that elephant poaching and illegal ivory consumption is unacceptable,” said WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper.

“We are hopeful that this gesture shows that we can win the war against poaching and that elephants will once again flourish.”

Hong Kong’s return of seized ivory, rhino horn to South Africa hailed

South China Morning Post

08 December, 2013

Hong Kong’s recent return of seized ivory and rhino horns to South Africa has been hailed as a turning point that could lead to the successful prosecution of poachers and smugglers.

The decision was welcomed by wildlife conservation groups as a positive step towards combatting the illegal trade that is decimating the world’s elephant and rhino populations.

The return of 33 rhino horns and hundreds of carved ivory items to South Africa last month was the result of a two-year process that began in November 2011 after Hong Kong customs officers X-rayed a shipment of “scrap plastic” and uncovered a record haul of almost 80kg of rhino horn, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets.

Last month, a delegation from South Africa came to Hong Kong for a week to finalise the process. The team included Captain Johan Jooste, from the endangered species team of South Africa’s serious crime unit, the Hawks; a police forensics specialist; and representatives from the Environmental Affairs Department and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Jooste said yesterday: “It’s not just a case of returning the items because the most significant part is that we are now able to use the seized items in our courts as evidence.

“Besides getting the items out of the market, we can learn about smuggling routes and the origin of the rhino horns and ivory.”

The horns and ivory are undergoing DNA analysis, with the results expected early next year, to pinpoint where the elephants and rhinos were poached.

“There’s a strong Asian market for rhino horn, whether it’s for medicinal or other reasons, and it’s been escalating, especially in the past year,” Jooste said.

South Africa is home to about 90 per cent of the world’s rhino population and the number of rhinos poached has increased from 13 in 2007 to 891 so far this year.

Jooste said South Africa was also in talks with other Asian and African nations for the return of seized rhino horns.

The record seizure triggered an immediate investigation in South Africa. A request was sent to Hong Kong justice officials in September 2012 for the return of the seized items under a mutual legal assistance agreement which came into effect in December 2011.

The legal process took another year, with a High Court ruling allowing the rhino horns and ivory to be sent back to South Africa to help in a criminal investigation and possible prosecution.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed that it was the first time in 10 years that it had issued reexport licences so that seized rhino horns or elephant ivory could be sent to another country.

Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, welcomed the move, as it could lead to arrests.

Tom Milliken, an elephant and rhino expert with wildlife non-governmental organisation Traffic, said: “We are delighted that DNA analysis of the largest consignment of South African rhino horns ever seized in Asia is finally going to happen. It’s taken over two years for this exchange to transpire so it’s a hallelujah moment.”

Major Ivory Trafficking Operations Halted, Haul Includes Elephant Tusk And Sculpted Ivory (Republic of Congo)


3 December 2013

The Project for the Application of Law for Fauna (PALF) in the Republic of Congo has today announced one of their most significant operations against the illegal ivory trade. This week, an incredible total of four ivory operations supported by PALF (a collaborative organisation between The Aspinall Foundation, a UK based charity, The Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and the Wildlife Conservation Society), have resulted in the arrests of eight people in these illegal wildlife trafficking groups – whilst more arrests are set to continue. This is one of the most successful hauls of illegal trafficking criminals that PALF and The Aspinall Foundation have been involved in. The major haul started with an enormous elephant tusk seized by PALF and a consortium of NGO’s in the Republic of Congo.

Another of the ivory hauls from a dealer in an international trafficking network included a sack full of sculpted ivory. Early on the 30th November, another dealer with sculpted ivory was arrested and most incredibly and later that afternoon, a 32-year-old Chinese national attempted to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight with ivory jewellery after bribing 60.000 FCFA (about $125 USD) to get it through to via ‘a fixer’ said Natafali Honig.

Naftali Honig, PALF Co-ordinator explained: “We acted fast on the tip-off about this Ethiopian Airlines passenger and within minutes his hand luggage was searched, we found nothing. Then after I tried to ask him about the ivory, we suspected that the illegal haul was in his checked luggage, which was at that time being loaded onto the plane. The rest of the passengers had already boarded the plane whilst we continued to question the passenger.”

After holding up the flight to find the unnamed passenger’s luggage, authorities were able to confirm that there was in fact a suitcase full of ivory on board the plane. A team of people from Eaux et Forêts working at Maya Maya Airport in Brazaville, the Departmental Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the National Gendarmerie ended up arresting the Chinese national and the person who facilitated the passage of his luggage for money.

This week has been a phenomenal success for the Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and especially for the Gendarmerie Nationale, whose tirelessness throughout the week made this huge operation possible.

These seizes were conducted all over Brazzaville, in the morning, in the middle of the day and at night. Naftali Honig, the PALF Co-ordinator explained: “These are not easy cases – corruption attempts are rife and I was particularly moved when one Gendarme asked me and the PALF legal team to work extra hard to assure that these criminals are prosecuted and put into jail so that their hard work was not for nothing.”

Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said; “It is important for The Aspinall Foundation to continue to support vital work against illegal ivory smugglers. This week has been one of our most successful through PALF and also one of our most significant. The ivory trade is out of control and I personally feel that China needs to do more to help us all in the fight against this. I am incredibly proud of the collaborative efforts that continue in the Republic of Congo through PALF as they are making a huge difference, but there is still a long, long way to go in the fight against ivory trafficking.”

In China it is commonly thought that ivory possesses naturopathic benefits as well as a huge value placed on the ornamental market. The trade in ivory has soared on the back of the country’s growing wealth which is a disaster for wildlife. Earlier this year, China was one of the eight countries that submitted national action plans to combat illegal trade in elephant ivory. These plans were requested by the CITES Standing Committee in March 2012 as a response to the dramatic rise in the number of elephants poached for their ivory.

The survival of elephants depends on our collective stand against the ivory trade

Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW
November 13, 2013

At the invitation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, I am flying into Denver, Colorado today to witness the destruction of the elephant ivory seized in the United States.

Nearly six tons of elephant ivory confiscated from illegal trade will be destroyed by crushing at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. The symbolic ivory crush signifies the US commitment to combat wildlife trafficking as outlined in President Obama’s new Executive Order in July.

The organization I work for, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) strongly supports governments to destroy their stockpiles of confiscated ivory for two reasons: both as a symbolic gesture to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of elephants that are being killed each year to supply the ivory trade, but also as a way to ensure that seized ivory does not re-enter the market.

IFAW believes the destruction of confiscated ivory will send a strong signal to consumers everywhere that buying ivory is immoral and wrong, and send a tough message to poachers and traffickers that their actions will not be tolerated.

The snow-capped mountains and the crisp dry air of the mile high city bring back memories of another symbolic destruction of wildlife parts from another species, on another continent.

A decade ago, at the Kekexili Nature Reserve in China’s western plateau, elevation 3-miles high (16,400 ft), I twice joined Chinese government officials in setting fire to thousands of confiscated Tibetan antelope pelts.

Tibetan antelope or chiru ((Pantholops hodgsonii), a highly endangered species endemic to the Qinghai Tibet plateau, were heavily poached in China for their wool, which is smuggled into India to be woven into a shawl highly-prized for its lightness, softness and warmth that it is called “shahtoosh” (“King of Wool”).

The sharp demand for Shahtoosh shawls in the luxury markets in Europe and America stimulated poaching, which saw tens of thousands of chiru killed a year.

By burning the pelts, China asked the international community to help end the slaughter of the Tibetan antelope by smashing every link on the trade chain, from poaching to trafficking to market demand.

Governments and civil society responded, so overwhelmingly that they ended both international and domestic trade of shahtoosh around the world.

• In China, a law enforcement network was formed to combat poaching and ensure the safety of the chiru in its habitat and along its migration route, on the vast and desolate high plateau.
• In the Jammu and Kashmir regions of India where shahtoosh is woven, the entire industry has shifted from weaving shahtoosh to an alternative wool sheared from mountain goats;
• And in fashion markets in the west, designers and consumers rejected shahtoosh as a “shroud” rather than a “shawl” and called for ending the trade.
• To plug any market loopholes and give more teeth to law enforcement, the US government adopted the Tibetan antelope into its Endangered Species Act, making domestic trade of shahtoosh also a prosecutable crime, the same as trafficking of shahtoosh across international borders.

The collective stand against all commercial trade of Tibetan antelope parts and products internationally and domestically, saved this endangered species from sliding into extinction.

That level of political will and commitment to shut down ivory markets is what’s desperately needed today for elephants.

Poaching of elephants in Africa is at an all-time high. Poachers use machine guns, poison and rocket propelled grenades to gun down entire families of elephants, including pregnant females and young calves, all for their ivory.

Elephants are a long-living, slow-growing and slow-breeding species. The United Nations Environment Programme notes that when elephant populations decline by over 6% annually, that population is vulnerable to collapse. Yet, in many parts of Africa right now, the killing of elephants for ivory is running at 11 or 12 percent of those populations.

China and the United States are considered to be two of the largest markets for illegal ivory. A 2008 IFAW investigation of  global online markets uncovered nearly 4,000 ivory listings with majority of them on the eBay US sites.

At our urging, eBay banned ivory trade on their website.

In China, ivory is increasingly promoted as “white gold” and coveted by the wealthy as a status symbol. IFAW investigations there found that illegal ivory trade is rampant under the cover of a legal market.

The existence of legal ivory markets not only provides cover for illegal trade, it creates difficulties for law enforcement officers and the consumers to distinguish whether an ivory sold in the market is legal or illegal.  Worse, it fans the desires of more consumers who want their own piece of the “forbidden fruit.”

An IFAW survey in 2013 found that the most compelling reason for Chinese consumers to stop buying ivory is for the government to “make ivory buying illegal in all circumstances” (60%).

A 2012 survey by WildAid found 94% of urban Chinese residents agree that “Chinese government should impose a ban on ivory trade to help stop elephant poaching in Africa.”

Banning the domestic ivory trade will send an unambiguous message that killing elephants for the ivory trade cannot be tolerated.

Only by having strong and clear laws making ivory trade illegal combined with rigorous enforcement and meaningful punishment for violations can we ultimately see social stigma attached with the consumption of ivory, which is essential for ivory demand reduction.

Just as China’s symbolic destruction of Tibetan antelope pelts did to the shahtoosh trade, I hope the destruction of the ivory stockpile today can be the impetus for the US rallying the international community in taking a strong stand against all ivory trade.

To save elephants, we have to: Stop the poaching. Stop the trafficking. Stop the demand.

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