Tag Archives: japan

Japanese appetite for ivory fuels poaching epidemic

Poorly controlled ivory sales in Japan are encouraging illegal trade in elephant tusks and large amounts of ivory are entering the domestic market.

Online selling and weak controls on domestic ivory sales in Japan are spurring illegal international trade in elephant tusks and contributing to a steep rise in poaching, activists said.

A lack of rules regulating the registration of raw ivory and the licensing of importers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers has allowed illicit stocks into Japan’s domestic market, according to the report by the independent London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Under current rules, only whole elephant tusks must be registered with Japan’s Environmental Agency.

“Japan’s ivory controls are flawed and there is evidence that large amounts of illegal ivory … have been laundered into the domestic market,” said the report, which was co-authored by animal welfare group Humane Society International.

Urgent response required

“The current African elephant poaching crisis requires an urgent and swift response before populations are wiped out. The flourishing domestic ivory markets of Japan and China are now the key driving force behind Africa’s poaching epidemic and global illegal ivory trade.”

According to a 2013 study by the University of Washington, the annual number of African elephants being slaughtered to supply the illegal ivory trade is estimated to be as high as 50,000, or roughly one sixth of the continent’s remaining elephant population.

International trade in ivory is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but its growth is being fuelled by legal domestic markets in countries such as Japan and China, where trade is being supported by the advance of e-commerce.

US President Barack Obama in February announced new restrictions on the commercial import of African elephant ivory, as well as on what sport hunters can bring back to the country.

Much of the ivory imported into Japan goes into making traditional name stamps, called hankos, that are used in lieu of signatures on documents.

Sales and advertisements stopped

The EIA said between 2005 and 2010, illegal ivory accounted for up to 87%of ivory hankos produced in Japan.

It named Japanese website Rakuten Ichiba as the world’s top marketplace for elephant ivory, citing more than 28 000 advertisements for products. Rakuten Ichiba is Japan’s biggest online shopping site with more than 87 million members.

Rakuten Ichiba is owned by Japan-headquartered Rakuten Group , which also owns British based Play.com, Canadian e-reader firm Kobo, and has a stake in social media site Pinterest.

Rakuten Group did not respond to several requests for comment.

“Amazon and Google have stopped all sales or advertisements of whale, dolphin and ivory through their Japanese e-commerce sites, and Rakuten must do the same,” the EIA said.

The article can be found in the following link:

http://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Environmental-health/Animals/Japanese-appetite-for-ivory-fuels-poaching-epidemic-20140320

Ivory is the real draw at Beijing centre

BY MALCOLM MOORE, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH
FEBRUARY 11, 2014

With its sleek glass and wood exterior, the Tianya Antiques City is a temple to modern Chinese
craftsmanship. Inside, the traders sell their wares from boutique stalls more like museums than
markets – jade, emerald and coral.

But the real draw for visitors to the Beijing centre is also its most controversial: ivory.

As a high-level summit to combat wildlife trafficking and poaching opens in London Wednesday,
hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, shifting Chinese attitudes toward
ivory will be one of the most important goals, given that it is the world’s most populous nation
with a strong appetite for elephant tusk.

It will not be easy, as Fu Junjun, who works at her father’s ivory shop in the 11-floor market,
testified. “The price of ivory keeps going up, and the government’s decision to destroy that ivory
stockpile actually helped us,” she said, referring to the recent crushing of about 5.5 tonnes by
Chinese authorities. “The smaller stores now find it harder to get a good supply, but bigger
stores like us have hardly felt any impact and it helped put the price up.”

Ivory is legal in China provided it comes from a government-registered dealer, and there
continues to be a significant demand – partly as an increasingly valuable commodity and partly
because, according to the principles of feng shui, ivory can “disperse misfortune and drive out
evil spirits”.

In 2008, the international community allowed four African countries – Namibia, Zimbabwe,
South Africa and Botswana – to sell their stockpiles of ivory to Japan and China for $15 million in
an attempt to control the slaughter of elephants.

All of the ivory available in China is technically supposed to have come from that auction, and
each carving carries its own certificate of provenance. But environmentalists warn that there is
rampant cheating in the system and that illegal ivory  is easily laundered. A survey by IFAW in
2011 found that, of 158 shops and carving factories in Beijing, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Guang-
zhou, 101 were not licensed, or were selling smuggled ivory.

At Panjiayuan, Beijing’s biggest curio market, dealers said they had no elephant tusk on offer.
But when asked if they wanted to buy an unlicensed piece of ivory, several asked to take a look.

“I have bought cheap ivory online,” said Xu Song, a 25-year-old carver. “I cannot say whether
they were smuggled or not, but they are cheap, so I suppose so.

“Perhaps the biggest legacy of the decision to allow ivory auctions is that it has convinced the
Chinese that ivory is no longer a desperately endangered commodity. I do not think the supply
of ivory is a problem. We have not really thought about it.”

On the upside, the Chinese have discovered a new commodity that is now rivalling elephant
ivory in desirability: woolly mammoth ivory. Each summer, hundreds of tusks are dug up in
Siberia and sent south for carving.

Article at the following link:
http://www.thestarphoenix.com/Ivory+real+draw+Beijing+centre/9493078/story.html

Time to hunt down the ‘kingpins’ of wildlife crime

Sarah Morrison, The Independent
February 6, 2014
World leaders are being urged to crack down on the masterminds behind gangs that make billions from animal carcasses

The dangerous criminal networks that run the global wildlife trade have been allowed to persist and prosper as a result of “chronic government failures” to treat them seriously, experts have warned, days before the world’s biggest conference on international wildlife crime.

The £12bn industry is the world’s fourth biggest illegal trade after narcotics, human trafficking and counterfeiting. But despite arresting traffickers and seizing wildlife parts, law enforcers have failed to arrest or convict the criminal masterminds wreaking havoc across Africa, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which has been investigating the trade for more than three decades.

“Despite record seizures of illegal ivory, not a single criminal kingpin involved in the international illegal trade of ivory has prosecuted and convicted to date. That is a damning indictment. With less than 3,500 wild tigers left, elephant numbers plummeting and rhinos under attack again, we need to get it right,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the EIA.

We know time is running out. Around 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory, and conservationists warn that in some parts of Africa formerly great populations could be wiped out in just five years. Last year was reportedly the worst on record for rhino poaching in South Africa; 1,004 animals were killed – a 50 per cent increase on 2012. Almost 6,000 Asian big cats have been identified in trade over the past 13 years and at least 45 tonnes of ivory were seized in 2013, a haul believed to be the largest in a quarter of a century.

But as world leaders and heads of state prepare to fly into London for the conference, where they will try to find a solution to global wildlife crime, the report warns that “greater effort is needed to build evidence against the main culprits who lead the smuggling syndicates without getting their hands dirty”. The EIA suggests that this will require detailed detective work involving intelligence sharing between agencies, and internationally, and the use of forensic techniques.

The report, In Cold Blood: Combating Organised Wildlife Crime, draws attention to the most notorious wildlife crimes in history, from the discovery of 31 tiger skins, 581 leopard skins and 778 otter skins in Tibet in a routine vehicle search in 2003, to the recovery of 532 elephant tusks in Singapore a year before. In neither case were the leaders of the networks prosecuted.

A picture emerges of highly intelligent criminal syndicates that commission the mass slaughter of animals, forge documentation, commit tax fraud, and constantly evade justice. “For decades, criminal gangs have been devastating our environment and driving both iconic and little-known species to the brink of extinction. Undermining democratic structures and fostering corruption at every level, these individuals have been operating with [impunity] for decades,” Ms Rice added.

But world leaders are finally acknowledging the scale of the problem. Yesterday, the UK government announced it would fund the National Wildlife Crime Unit for another two years. The French government also crushed three tonnes of seized ivory, two months after it announced its national action plan against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. This follows the destruction of seized ivory by Gabon, the US, the Philippines and China.

“Illegal wildlife trade can be serious, organised and global,” said Sabri Zain, director of policy at Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network. “Every country has a part to play to ensure the criminal networks behind it are dismantled.”

The Independent, with its sister titles, is running an elephant appeal supporting Space for Giants, a charity determined to defend Africa’s elephants. But we want to halt all wildlife crime.

Our petition calls for world leaders to commit to better training and resources for rangers; to provide better education in places such as Asia, where consumer demand is driving up poaching; to stamp down on corruption and implement laws against those involved in the trade; to help local communities develop sustainable livelihoods; and to uphold the ban on the international trade in ivory.

Six of the worst:

The Singapore ivory seizure

When the Singaporean authorities were tipped-off in 2002 about a vessel supposedly carrying stone sculptures from Malawi, they discovered the largest batch of ivory seized since the 1989 international ban. It totalled 7.2 tonnes, over six tonnes from slaughtered elephants, sourced largely from Zambia.

The seized container was reportedly just one of 19 suspected shipments by an organised ivory syndicate. Japan was its final destination. Despite a small fine issued to the shipping agent, none of the key players were prosecuted.

Chand big cat case

When it emerged that all of the tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve, India, had been poached in 2005, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation began investigating.

The Delhi City Crime Branch intercepted telephone calls reportedly leading to Sansar Chand, one of the most notorious tiger traders in history – who was first arrested in 1974. When he was arrested in June 2005, it was estimated his network controlled 50 per cent of the illegal market in tiger and leopard skins. He and his associates reportedly had at least 57 court cases pending against them.

He was charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime, a landmark charge against a wildlife criminal. Members of Chand’s family have reportedly continued trading.

Tibet animal skins case

When police in Sangsang, Ngamring County, Tibet, conducted a routine vehicle search in 2003, they discovered a huge collection of skins from Asian big cats and other species: 31 tiger skins, 581 leopard skins and 778 otter skins, valued at $7.6m.

Some of the tightly packed skins had bullet holes in them and had Delhi newspapers stuck to their rear. The three people in the car were suspects were found guilty, convicted and sentenced to death in October 2004, subsequently reduced to life imprisonment. The convictions did not result in identification of the leaders of the smuggling syndicate.

The Teng Group ivory case

A shipping container of used tyres arrived in Cameroon from Hong Kong in 2006. It was emptied, loaded with timber and dispatched again for Asia. But when custom officials in Hong Kong X-rayed the container, they found 3.9 tonnes of ivory tusks concealed behind the timber, in a specially-modified compartment. It was a record seizure for Hong Kong at the time, representing at least 400 slaughtered elephants.

Paperwork reportedly indicated the transport of at last 12 previous shipments, along the same route. The shipments were reportedly linked to the ‘Teng Group’ – a notorious syndicate connected to money laundering and drug trafficking with connections to Nigeria. The criminal syndicate has so far evaded the law.

Sham rhino hunters

Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai was arrested in South Africa in 2011 and charged with illegally obtaining hunting permits to fraudulently export rhino horns. He pled guilty to 52 counts. The following year, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison – reduced to 30 on appeal. But it’s not just Asia.

Last year, the Czech authorities arrested 15 people connected to sham rhino hunts in South Africa. In total, 24 rhino horns have been seized in the Czech Republic in the past few years.

Gir lion poaching

Organised poachers targeted the last remaining population of Asiatic lions, found in Gir National Park, India, in 2007, in a bid to feed the international market the bones it craved.  Suspects were arrested in  possession of lion claws and traps, their fingernails were clipped for evidence of lion blood and samples of blood-soaked clothing were taken.

A bandage found at the scene connected the suspects’ DNA with the location. Ultimately, 36 poachers were convicted and a major trader network was exposed.

These case studies are taken from an EIA report.

Sign our petition to stop the illegal killing of elephants now.

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.

European Commission, Member States Going Soft on Resumption of Ivory Trade?

Here is some elephant news just arrived from the Fondation Franz Weber

European Commission, Member States Going Soft on Resumption of Ivory Trade?

European Parliament backs total moratorium but Commission dithers

10 February 2010, Strasbourg, France, MEPs today called unequivocally for no resumption of the elephant trade. But the European Commission is being ambivalent to proposals from Tanzania and Zambia to recategorise their elephant populations to allow them to sell ivory (called “downlisting” in the relevant trade jargon). Such moves stimulate poachers seeking to exploit illicit market opportunities under cover of the legal trade.

A Resolution, adopted today, stakes out the European Parliament’s position on protection of endangered species ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Fauna (CITES). CoP15 takes place from 13-25 March 2010 in Doha. This issue is on the agenda for the new Commission’s first meeting on 17 February.

“In 1963 there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa. Today there are less than 500,000,” says Vera Weber of the Fondation Franz Weber, which runs a national park on behalf of the government of Togo. “If things go on at this rate, in another fifty years there will be no more wild elephants left at all. The EU must come out of the bush and support us now. The Commission needs to lead!”

A majority of African countries fear that the lack of political leadership in the Commission until now means that the EU’s position on the future of the African elephant will depend on the technocratic views of civil servants, not on the political leadership.

“This is the last call for the African elephant,” continues Ms. Weber. “For months on end there has been a huge gap in political leadership in the EU on elephant conservation. We urge newly-appointed environment and trade commissioners Potocnik and De Gucht to cut through the bureaucratic waffle and do the right thing politically – so that future generations of European kids will actually know that wild elephants still live in Africa. The EU was with us on this in 2007, where is it now?”

Any legally authorised sales of ivory (to China and Japan – the only countries in the world who continue to buy ivory) create cover for illegal trading (usually into the same two countries), thereby encouraging poachers to slaughter elephants cruelly all across Africa. In Chad’s Zakouma National Park, the elephant population grew over 20 years with EU aid to 4,800 animals by 2003. Since then poachers have decimated this population. In 2009 there were just 617 elephants left. Last month that number fell to 607 as poachers killed another ten animals for their tusks. Elephants are now extinct in Sierra Leone because of poaching. Yet Commission officials are not publicly backing the total moratorium agreed in CITES in 2007 which the EU played a decisive role in promoting.

At the CITES CoP14 meeting in the Hague in 2007, the then German Presidency of the EU was instrumental in brokering a 9-year total moratorium in elephant trade. Yet, Commission officials appear ambivalent about whether Tanzania and Zambia should be allowed to “downlist” their elephants – an initiative which is the first step towards launching trade. The moratorium started in late 2008, just after legal one-off ivory sales by Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

On the initiative of the Fondation Franz Weber, eighteen delegates from the 23-government African Elephant Coalition took the unprecedented step of visiting Brussels in late-January for a week of talks aiming to persuade the EU institutions not to agree to any downlisting. The visitors found MEPs clear and supportive, the Commission evasive and non-committal.

The European Parliament Resolution explicitly urges the Commission and Member States to reject all proposals that would result in any resumption of the African elephant ivory trade until such time as a proper assessment can be made of the impact on poaching of the November 2008 one-off sales of ivory from a number of southern African countries.

“Elephants need their tusks, the Chinese don’t. If the EU abstains on this issue in Doha, this will effectively give the green light for the resumption of the ivory trade which millions of Europeans do not want to see,” says Ms. Weber. “An historic opportunity now exists to ensure that the ivory trade is not revived – even on a limited basis – thereby helping threatened elephant populations avoid the poachers’ guns and bazookas.”

The EU must act now to protect the African elephant from extinction. The credibility of the EU presidency is at stake in the eyes of at least 23 African countries.
Ends

For more information contact Eamonn Bates in Strasbourg on +32-475 45 24 43 or Vera Weber on +41-79 210 54 04

African Elephant Coalition (AEC) members are the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Republic of Congo and the Government of Southern Sudan. Kenya and Mali are the co-Chairs of the AEC.