Tag Archives: ivory

Africa: New Report Commissioned By Born Free Usa Confirms Organized Crime, Government Corruption, and Militia Links to Elephant Poaching and the Ivory Trade

Born Free
21 April 2014

Washington, DC — ”Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa” reveals similarity between the illicit networks that enable terrorism, weapons, human trafficking, and ivory commercialization.

Today, Born Free USA and C4ADS released “Ivory’s Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa,” one of the most shocking, rigorous and in-depth analyses of elephant poaching  and the ivory trade to date. The report examines links to violent militias, organized crime, government corruption, and ivory trade to Asia. It further exposes the widespread transnational illicit participants deeply interwoven into the system that moves ivory. The full report is available at www.bornfreeusa.org/ivoryscurse.

According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, a global leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, “The elephant poaching crisis has reached historic levels and, shockingly, some elephant populations face extinction in my lifetime. Born Free USA sought to understand in a more robust way how destabilizing and corrupt individuals, as well as organized crime networks across Africa, place human security at risk and traffic in elephant ivory from slaughtered animals. Clearly, Ivory’s Curse shows that defense, military, national security, and foreign policy leaders must play a role in stopping the elephant massacre across the continent.”

Roberts explains, “Our findings shine a bright light on Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, and Kenya, where poachers move across borders with near impunity, slaughter elephants with complete disregard, and use the ivory to fund violent operations across the continent. Global leaders cannot stand by while the human tragedy and poaching crisis continue.”

Varun Vira, Senior Analyst at C4ADS and co-author of the report commissioned by Born Free USA, said, “Ivory is a conflict, crime, and corruption issue with severe human impact. It has been a conflict resource for decades, just like blood diamonds or coltan in Central Africa, only without the same level of global attention.”

One elephant yields about 20 pounds of ivory worth approximately $30,000. It is estimated that between 35,000 and 50,000 may have been killed in 2013. At this rate, the ivory trade could be worth one billion dollars annually, and will likely increase with the escalating retail price of ivory.

Ivory’s Curse provides detailed regional case studies on the ivory trade, including:

• From Sudan, government-allied militias complicit in the Darfur genocide fund their operations by poaching elephants hundreds of miles outside North Sudan’s borders.
• In the DRC, state security forces patronize the very rebels they are supposed to fight, providing them with weapons and support in exchange for ivory.
• Zimbabwean political elites, including those under international sanction, are seizing wildlife spaces that either are, or likely will soon be, used as covers for poaching operations.
• In East Africa, al-Shabaab and Somali criminal networks are profiting off Kenyan elephants killed by poachers using weapons leaked from local security forces.
• Mozambican organized crime has militarized and consolidated to the extent it is willing to battle the South African army and well-trained ranger forces for rhino horn.
• In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, ill-regulated forest exploitation is bringing East Asian migrant laborers, and East Asian organized crime, into contact with Central Africa’s last elephants.
• In Tanzania, political elites have aided the industrial-scale depletion of East Africa’s largest elephant population.

Vira explains, “Subsistence elephant poaching barely exists anymore. Impoverished locals may pull the triggers but they source to organized crime, which controls the scale of the poaching and nearly all profits. Saving both elephants and local communities will require moving from the bush into the world of global illicit networks in order to target transnational criminal profits. There are infinitely more young Africans willing to shoulder guns and kill elephants than there are containers full of ivory.”

Roberts concludes, “No one should ever buy ivory, but they should also contribute resources to organizations like Born Free USA that help equip rangers on the ground, and should pressure political leaders to take action to end the corruption. As long as supply chains remain unbroken and consumer demand remains insatiable, poachers will ply their deadly trade to supply the marketplace.”

Will this man’s tears save our elephants? (Kenya)

Daily Nation

March 30, 2014

When an elephant was killed last week at the Aberdare National Park, Mr Allan Wanyama, a game ranger, wept.

Cameras caught the distraught ranger, rifle in hand, crying as he stood desolately over the animal, which still had blood oozing from its wounds.

“It was a mixture of emotion and bitterness,” explains Wanyama, 24. “At that moment I would not have  spared any of the poachers. I almost lost my mind at the sight of the carcass of the animal, which was everybody’s favourite at the park.”

He adds that he had developed a close attachment to the animal during the period he had served at the park.

For Wanyama, painful memories of the friendly animal was the last straw.

The ruthlessness of the poaching cartels and the number of KWS officers whose lives have been cut short by the ruthless gangs had made him a bitter and worried man, hence his sadness at the death of the elephant that Sundaymorning.

“Looking at the carcass of such an animal is like waking up in the morning and finding your boss dead and realising that in a short time you face the possibility of being jobless.

The government has given me a gun and houses me to look after the animals. I felt let down,” he explains.

That morning, as Wayama and his colleagues patrolled the forest, they heard gunshots.

They headed in the direction from which the shots had come and soon came across the animal that had been killed. They interrupted the poachers because the tusks had only been partially removed.

“The poachers must have been on the alert and fled when they heard us approaching,” he says.

The fleeing poachers left food, assorted pairs of shoes, and a tent, an indication that they were so sure they would not be detected that they had camped in the forest.

The slain elephant was the biggest of the herd and, according to Wanyama, very friendly to tourists.

“He was not hostile and many people loved him because, instead of running away the way the others did, he would move closer, causing great excitement among the visitors,” he recalls.

Although some of Wanyama’s friends viewed his reaction as extreme and teased him about mourning an elephant, recent statistics on the poaching of elephants and rhinos in the country is no laughing matter.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acting director William Kiprono says that in the past three months, poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants. Last year, the country lost 59 rhinos and 302 elephants to poaching, while in 2012 it lost 30 rhinos and 384 elephants to the criminal gangs.

“We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and the rest of Africa to growing demand and the high prices being offered for rhino horn and elephant tusks in Far East countries as the ready market continues to spur the illegal sale of ivory and rhino horns,” he says, adding that poachers not only use sophisticated weapons, but have resorted to silent methods, which makes it difficult for rangers on patrol to detect their presence.

In parks such as Lake Nakuru, the rising water levels have caused grazing land for rhinos to shrink, forcing the animals to move to areas near the edge of the park, making them easy targets for poachers.

Besides, Lake Nakuru is located in a cosmopolitan area, so poachers easily sneak into the park, kill rhinos, and disappear into the town undetected.

Kiprono says KWS has adopted a multifaceted strategy that brings together law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, and the community in an attempt to curb the menace.

“We have increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, both in the region and internationally, to ensure more robust intelligence gathering. The collaboration includes follow-ups on suspected poaching gangs, surveillance at all ports of entry and exit, and overt operations in wildlife areas,” he offers.

His views are echoed by Mr Aggrey Maumo, the KWS assistant director in charge of the Mountain conservation area, who says that poaching of rhinos and elephants is conducted by a complex web and that what they are fighting is just the low end of it.

“The main movers and shakers of this trade are very powerful people who have created very complex syndicates. It will take more than our efforts alone to crack it. All Kenyans must work with the authorities if we are to succeed,” he says.

PRICELESS IVORY
According to a report released by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) last month, the high prices that ivory fetches continue to drive the trade.

The reports reads in part: “With ivory’s market value reaching $900 (Sh77,400) per kilogramme in China, the financial stakes are high, and it appears sponsors are adopting bold new tactics to satisfy demand.”

“One criminal syndicate will gather a poaching gang together and that poaching gang will be assigned instructions to kill a specific herd of elephants or to provide a specific amount of ivory,” says Mr William Clark of Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme.

“We are alive to the fact that wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants, are increasingly becoming vulnerable because of high demand for their horns and ivory respectively. Poaching of this prized wildlife has become more organised, sophisticated, and international in nature,” Clark adds.

Despite the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which stipulates tough punishment for those convicted of poaching — including life imprisonment or a Sh20 million fine — the trade continues unabated.

Yet for people like Wanyama, the loss of every animal counts. He says the long and lonely hours spent in the wild with the animals not only make the rangers attached to them, it also allows the officers to know the individual character of some of the animals.

“Their behaviour is very similar to that of human beings; some are reserved while others are hostile. Yet others can decide to be naughty, always looking for the slightest opportunity to cause destruction,” he enthuses.

The ranger believes that his destiny with wild animals was determined when his parents named him Wanyama, which is Kiswahili for animals.

“My parents might have had cultural reasons for naming me Wanyama, but throughout school, fellow students often referred to me as a wild animal. Those are the things that shaped my destiny,” he says, gazing into the thick bushes.

He explains that in his Bukusu community, the name Wanyama is given to a boy born during the  circumcision period, a time during which people make merry and, therefore, most homes with initiates have meat in plenty.

And when KWS advertised for recruits, he applied and was successful. After training, he was posted to the Aberdare National Park, where he has served for three years.

“When I was employed, I knew that my responsibilities were to sustain, manage, and conserve wildlife. When one of your biggest animals dies, and if they continue dying at this rate, KWS will have no role in this country as there will no longer be any wildlife to conserve,” he laments.

He acknowledges that looking after the animals is an enormous task.

The rugged terrain, poachers who are getting more sophisticated by the day, and inadequate staff are some of the challenges Wanyama and his colleagues have to contend with daily. It is a job to which he gives his all irrespective of the weather, so it pains him when poachers kill an animal.

Wanyama says he has developed such a strong attachment to the wildlife that he would not trade his gun for any other profession. At home he keeps cows, goats, and doves.

Indeed, Maumo says that some of the rangers get so attached to the wildlife that when an animal is killed, they get deeply affected.

“We are aware that the officers work under difficult conditions but encourage them and try as much as possible to address the issues that arise from time to time.

“But wildlife conservation is not the responsibility of KWS alone. We are engaging with the neighbouring villages to help us fight the poachers,” he says.

Maumo says poachers have created an elaborate syndicate that calls for a multi-pronged approach to deal with.

It is notable that even as he talks of the involvement of criminal gangs, Kiprono acknowledges that 17 KWS employees have been fired over poaching, while 13 others were retired in the public interest, an indication that some insiders could be collaborating with the poachers.

And as long as that continues, poaching will remain a hard nut to crack.

FACTS AND FIGURES
18
Number of rhinos killed since January
51
Number of elephants killed since January
302
Number of elephants killed in 2013
$900
Cost per kilogramme of ivory in China. 3.5 tonnes of ivory were seized in Mombasa last year!

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COMPASSIONATE JUMBOS

Elephants are known to be highly social and intelligent creatures.

And now there is evidence that they engage in something like a group hug when a fellow elephant is in distress.

Mr Joshua Plotnick, who leads a conservation and education group called Think Elephants and teaches conservation at Mahidol University in Thailand, studied elephants at a park in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand to look for consolation behaviour.

As defined by Franz de Waal, Plotnick’s PhD adviser at Emory University, “Consolation behaviour involves bystanders responding in a reassuring way to an animal that is in emotional distress because of a conflict with another member of the group.”

“We’re pretty confident it’s relatively rare in animals,” Plotnick said in an interview, adding that there was evidence of the behaviour in apes, wolves, and some birds, and that there had been anecdotal reports of such behaviour in dolphins and elephants.

Elephants clearly have strong emotional connections to other elephants and are highly intelligent, so it made sense to think that they might console one another. To find out, Plotnick observed 26 elephants in six groups at a managed park.

When one elephant was disturbed, he said, other elephants gathered around it. They made high-pitched sounds and touched the distressed elephant, trunk to mouth or trunk to genitals, which are reassuring gestures among elephants.

Plotnick said that since he could not always observe the original source of the distress, he could not say that the behaviour met the narrow definition of consolation as it was not clear whether it followed conflict.

The elephants might have been scared by a person, dog, or, in some cases, a noise that humans could not hear. But he said that in every other way, the behaviour showed that they were acting to reassure the elephant that was upset.

Controversial Ivory destruction: walking between the legal principle and emotion

Zhang Ke, First Financial Daily
Jan 7th, 2014

January 6th, the State Forestry Administration and the General Administration of Customs in Guangdong Province, joined together to destroy 6.1 tons of confiscated ivory in public. This is the first time for the Chinese government to destroy its stockpile of illicit ivory in public since the founding of People’s Republic of China.
Both criticism and praise have been received after it was reported. A number of international animal protection groups believe that, this action demonstrates the Chinese government’s unshakeable resolution to crack down illicit ivory trade and to help reduce and stop illicit wildlife trade, to the whole world, including African countries,
However, opponents said that those tusk were so valuable that shouldn’t have been destroyed. As the tusk getting rarer, the price is getting higher; as a result, more people would take the risk and break the law, being driven by the desires making them less sympathetic. Auction, as another, is also suggested, whose proceeds could be used for animal protection or education. Building a museum, exhibiting those confiscated ivory, to shows the dirty smuggling deals to the public can be another possible solution.
Do we have to destroy them?
In fact, this problem has been encountered in every country that destroyed illegal ivory before. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) organized an ivory destruction last year, crushed its entire stockpile of illegal ivory tusks and carvings, which had been confiscated in past 25 years.
At that time, FWS had made remark that, from the point of economic theory, in general, reducing in supply increases demand. So with all these ivory destroyed, it may lead to the rise of the price, which would provoke the poachers even more to continue their slaughter. What would have happen, if FWS had sold these stocks to the market in some legal ways, instead of destroying them?
Gavin Shire, a specialist in public affairs at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says: “basic supply-and-demand analyses are not sufficiently applicable here.” He explains that the FWS itself is not permitted to sell the ivory products in any way; The reason why the department stockpiled the tusk, was that it was being sold illegally. If it’s illegal for poachers and dealers, then it can’t be legal for the government departments and agencies, either. Zero tolerance means no tolerance at all. As to the supply-demand theory, Shire says that whether this particular portion is put into the market or not, it wouldn’t make any economic difference, because the amount is so small. But crushing this stockpile in front of a group of politicians, environmentalists, media and the public will help stimulate conversations about the true value of the ivory.
Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia chief representative, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: “The destruction of the confiscated ivory can prevent the ivory getting back the market again, which would stimulate poaching in return. More importantly, from poaching to purchasing, every country in this chain is playing a part in destroying ivory publicly. This situation demonstrates to all the consumers that the purchase of ivory is immoral and wrong. ”
Reports from the First Financial Daily nowadays, for the Chinese government, especially the China Forestry Bureau, the most important is to announce a clear attitude and hold a firm stand, particularly to give clear definition of the preservation and utilization .
In fact, in terms of preservation and utilization, the ambiguous attitude the bureau holding for a long time has been very controversial. Issues on hunting rights, live bear bile, and ivory smuggling, lasting for a long time, reconfirming government’s consistent ambiguous attitude—to utilize and protect the forest product.
Taking ivory issue for example, despite the fact that the bureau admits that it’s brutal and immoral to get elephants’ tusk, the manufacturing of ivory production is still of legit existence, claiming which as a way to protect traditional carving technology.
This questionable position leads to the public’s misunderstanding of illegality of the ivory trades and makes it extreme difficult to define whether a particular ivory trade is legal or not. Protectors said that because the government, in a few years, will purchase and distribute the ivory back to the market in several groups, the price of ivory will be raised and, thus, stimulate the demand of illegal production.
However, during the activities of destruction of the ivory, Zhao Shucong, the director of the China Forestry Bureau, explained that this activity has declared Chinese government’s consistent position of opposing and fighting against the illicit trade of the wild animal, which will help to raise the public’s awareness of protecting the wild animals and reinforce the responsibility of related law-enforcement agencies.
In the process of combating the illicit trade in wild animal, the public awareness does matter, but, as an expert advocates, severe measures must be taken to contain the situation .In China, the most effective way is to illegalize all the manufacture and trade of ivory and give severe punishment to the offenders, only in this way could lessen the poaching activities at root.
Article at the following link:

Two charged with illegally selling ivory artworks (China)

China Daily

January 14, 2014

Prosecutors in Beijing’s Xicheng district said on Tuesday that they have charged two people suspected of illegally selling ivory.

The two suspects, surnamed Liu and Ye, allegedly processed nearly 14 kilograms of ivory, valued at about 600,000 yuan ($99,300), and sold it to the public, the prosecutors said.

Since June 2010, the two had rented a room to process and sell artworks made of wood and ivory without any business license, according to the prosecuting authority.

At first, the pair only processed wood artworks but, from April 2013, they started making products of ivory because they realized the profits were much higher than for wood artworks, the prosecutors said.

“I know it is illegal to make ivory products, but what I didn’t think the fees for the artistry are illegal,” Liu told the prosecutors after arrest.

Zhang Lei, one of the district’s prosecutors, said Asian and African elephants in the wild face extinction and must be protected.

As per a judicial interpretation issued by the top court, people who illegally buy, transport or sell wild animals that are endangered species, or products from those animals, must be punished, Zhang added.

Article at the following link:

Hong Kong a step closer to destroying ivory stockpile

Lana Lam, South China Morning Post
12 January, 2014

Hong Kong could be about to take the lead in the fight against elephant poachers and the criminal networks behind the illicit ivory trade by destroying its huge stockpile of the contraband, said the regional head of an influential wildlife conservation group.

The mainland’s decision last week to crush six tonnes of seized ivory may give Hong Kong the momentum it needs to follow through on its own proposal from two years ago to incinerate its 33-tonne stockpile, said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“Hong Kong has a very, very big role to play because if they destroy all 33 tonnes of ivory in its stockpile, it will be unprecedented, as that amount has never been destroyed,” Gabriel said.

Demand for ivory has soared in recent years, driven mainly by buyers in Asia, and mainland China in particular. It has led to a devastation of elephant populations not seen since the 1990s, when the problem prompted international action.

Images of ivory being destroyed in Dongguan last Monday sent ripples through the offices of the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong.

The department’s endangered species advisory committee is responsible for deciding what to do with the stockpile, said Gabriel, who on Friday discussed the issue with two officials.

“They want to destroy the stockpile but the final decision has to come from the committee,” she said. “They have to wait for them to meet, but we have collectively felt this momentum which was not there a year ago, so there is optimism.”

In 2012, the committee rejected a proposal from the department to destroy the city’s stockpile of seized ivory, arguing that it would be wasteful and the ivory should instead be kept for educational purposes.

The department accepted the committee’s recommendation last February, but committee chairman Paul Shin Kam-shing has previously said that he would be happy to return to the issue.

Gabriel said that time had come. “The momentum generated around the world is good and it sends a message to people everywhere that if they had any misgivings that destroying ivory is a waste, now they understand. Ivory is not art, it’s a life; that message is strong.”

She added: “It also takes the burden from having all this contraband which needs to be secured, stored and guarded because of its potential high value.”

The IFAW was part of an alliance of non-governmental organisations that oversaw the Dongguan action and is also working with the French government to destroy stockpiles.

An AFCD spokeswoman said it exchanged views on various conservation issues with NGOs from time to time. It was currently “reviewing the effectiveness of existing disposal measures”, which include donations to schools and universities.

Kenya: Trio Charged Over Sh1.4 Million Tusks Haul

By Edwin Nyarangi, The Star

1 January 2014

Three men arrested with eight pieces of elephant tusks worth Sh1.4 million were yesterday taken before a Kilgoris court. Stephen Omambia, Francis Mahinda and Obieyo Nyandat were found with the 14kgs of ivory December 29 at Nkararo area in Trans Mara.The three denied three charges.

Resident magistrate Amos Mokoross released the three on Sh800,000 bond with a surety of similar amount each. The case will be mentioned on Friday while the hearing was set for January 23.

Article at the following link:

Woman caught with ivory at OR Tambo (South Africa)

Independent Online
December 13 2013

Johannesburg – A 58-year-old woman was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport, in Kempton Park, on Friday for possession of 40kg of ivory, SA Revenue Service (Sars) said.

Customs officials caught the Chinese woman aboard an SA Airways flight which was about to leave for Hong Kong, said Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay.

“Officials acted on intelligence information they received beforehand. One of the sniffer dogs at the airport confirmed the ivory,” he said.

The ivory, worth about R400 000 on the street, was concealed in her luggage.

“It was wrapped in a foil, brown paper and clothes,” said Lackay.

The woman would appear in court soon.

The elephant emergency: Summit to be held in Botswana

Katie de Klee, Daily Maverick

18 Nov 2013

The African elephant is the world’s biggest land mammal; walking the earth at a dignified pace, the elephant has earned its place in the folklore and legend of many cultures. But this impressive creature is being slaughtered at alarming rate for its ivory: it is estimated one elephant is killed every 15 minutes. Check the time now; mark the moment the next grey giant falls. An emergency summit addressing the problems of the illegal ivory is to be held in Gaborone, Botswana at the beginning of December.

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President Ian Khama of Botswana will open the summit, and Heads of State and representatives of African elephant range countries will be in attendance, along with high-level representatives from transit and destination countries.

The summit will aim to address the following topics: penalties for ivory trading, law enforcement, population monitoring and public awareness.

A study conducted by the Conservation Action Trust (CAT) found that there were radical differences in the legislation and penalties surrounding poaching in African countries. Punishment must be seen to outweigh the potential financial rewards of the illegal ivory trade, acknowledging the severity of the crime and acting as a real deterrent. Maximum and equivalent penalties should apply in all countries.

National task forces should be formed and an increase in law enforcement and wildlife rangers should be facilitated. Ivory poachers are now often part of organised, armed networks, better equipped and connected than the rangers trying to stop them. More worryingly, the money from the poaching is increasingly often going towards armed rebellions and terrorism. The recent attack on the Nairobi mall by terrorist group al-Shabaab was partly funded by the illegal ivory trade.

The threat to national and international security would also be addressed by better intelligence sharing amongst States, another issue that will be given some time for discussion in Gaborone.

The IUCN will also propose that there needs to be better elephant population monitoring at national levels, and more effort should be put into raising public awareness.

Although the summit calls for global action, eight countries have been identified as being central to recent surges in elephant poaching. These countries are source countries Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, transit countries Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and destination countries Thailand and China. These countries are known as the ‘gang of eight’.

If satisfactory action is not taken by these eight countries to halt the trade of illegal ivory, the IUCN is suggesting heavy trade sanctions on all wildlife products – including the lucrative orchid and crocodile skin industries. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in many African nations, and the heads of these states must be shown that the greatest economic value comes from the living beast, and not from its by-products.

At the beginning of the last century there were 10 million African elephants on earth. Now there may be as few as 400,000. According to IUCN, the number of elephants killed has doubled in the last decade. Southern Africa is their stronghold, but at the rate they’re being killed, in 50 years’ time there won’t be one wild elephant left. That would be an unforgivable indictment on our species.

Zanzibar police seize 40-foot container of ivory (Tanzania)

Agence France Presse

November 2013

Police in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on Wednesday said they had seized a 40-foot (12-metre) container hiding an estimated several tonnes’ worth of ivory.

The seizure comes as authorities in Tanzania crack down on poaching amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation.

“This is unacceptable, we must end this problem,” said Tanzanian Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki, who travelled to Zanzibar after the seizure.

“This is serious, let us join forces to save our natural resources,” said the minister as police officers searched the container.

It was not clear where the container was destined for.

Police estimated that several tonnes of ivory were stashed in the container but said they would only be able to give the exact weight of the tusks, as well as the origin and destination of the ivory, once they finished unpacking it.

Kagasheki warned that if authorities were unable to find the owner, the agents who cleared the container on its arrival in Zanzibar’s main port would be held accountable.

“How did ivory manage to be transported to Zanzibar for reshipment?” Kagasheki said.

Zanzibar police chief Mussa Ali Mussa said two workers from a local clearing agent, which he refused to name, had been taken into custody.

In August 2011, at the same port, police seized 1,041 elephant tusks hidden in a shipment of anchovies heading for Malaysia.

The consignment had arrived from the Tanzanian economic capital Dar es Salaam.

The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn, used in traditional medicine, and ivory has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.

Last week President Jakaya Kikwete told parliament that a controversial anti-poaching operation that allegedly used a shoot-to-kill policy would continue in a bid to stamp out poaching.

Earlier this month three Chinese nationals were charged in mainland Tanzania for possessing 706 tusks from poached elephants. The trio face a maximum sentence of 20 years if found guilty.

Advertising campaign changing minds in China on ivory trade

Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
October 16, 2013

For three years, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been running advertizing campaigns in Chinese cities to raise awareness on the true source of ivory: slaughtered elephants. A recent evaluation of the campaign by Rapid Asia found that 66 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” not buy ivory in the future.

Conservationists in China say that one of the reasons ivory remains popular in the country is due to a public misconception about how ivory is obtained. According to previous polling by the IFAW, 70 percent of Chinese believed that elephants simply dropped their ivory tusks like human teeth, and did not know that elephants were slaughtered en masse for their entrenched tusks. IFAW’s three year campaign was meant to change this erroneous perception.

“The ads explain that ivory products come from dead elephants and encourage consumers to reject elephant ivory,” explains Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW, in a press release.

Elephant poaching has skyrocketed in recent years. Experts now believe that around 30,000 elephants are likely slaughtered annually for their tusks. Forest elephants in Central Africa have been hit the hardest, but few populations worldwide are considered truly secure. While some governments have responded by adding wildlife rangers and increasing penalties for poaching, many experts say that tackling the demand side will be key if elephants are ever to roam again unmolested. China remains one of the largest destinations for illegal ivory, but demand in many other countries—including Thailand, the Philippines and the U.S.—is also fueling the trade.

According to the Rapid Asia report, IFAW’s advertisements in China, which have reached 75 percent of people in targeted cities, have had a significant impact. Comparing groups who had seen the ads to those who haven’t, the report finds that those exposed to the ads were less likely to buy ivory in the future: 92 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” or “probably” not buy ivory, compared to 82 percent of those who had not seen the ads. More importantly, the campaign appears to have cut in half people who are most likely to buy ivory (i.e those classified as “high risk” for purchasing ivory), down from 54 percent down to 26 percent.

“It’s very exciting to see that our campaign has definitely resonated with the Chinese public and achieved its intended outcome,” said Gabriel. “What’s more encouraging is to see Chinese people are not prejudiced against elephants. Once they know the bloody slaughter of elephants behind each piece of ivory, the majority not only rejects purchasing ivory but tells their friends and family to reject it as well.”

The report found that more educational campaigns would help reduce demand further, including emphasizing the massive-scale of the current elephant poaching crisis and that buying ivory stimulates the illegal trade.

“This highlights the need for continued campaigning to sway people to avoid buying ivory,” the report reads, adding “there is an opportunity to take the campaign to the next level.”