Tag Archives: kenya

WildlifeDirect Expresses dismay at decision to route SGR through Nairobi National Park

Nairobi-January 6, 2017: WildlifeDirect express deep dismay at the decision by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to grant approval for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to pass through the Nairobi National park, despite overwhelming public opposition. The government has promised that the railway will not impede wildlife migrations, and that funds will be made available to improve the status of this and other parks in the country, while protecting the people who live adjacent to parks.

On December 13, 2016, NEMA issued a license giving Kenya Railways the go-ahead to construct SGR Phase 2A that will pass through the middle of Nairobi National Park on an elevated bridge.

The Park is Kenya’s oldest protected natural area and the only National Park in the world located within a major city.  It contains more biodiversity than many entire countries and is a sanctuary of global significance for some endangered species, notably the black rhinoceros. The Park is also a refuge from city life that provides incalculable benefits for millions of Nairobi residents, as well as for tourists and business visitors from all over the world.

On October 27, 2016 WildlifeDirect’s convened a forum bringing together stakeholders from many sectors, who were unanimous in calling on Kenya Railways to search for an alternative solution that would preserve the integrity of the Park. These efforts have fallen on deaf ears and the Park now faces an uncertain future.

The decision to route the railway through the Park not only goes against public opinion, but it also ignores the advice of numerous scientific experts who have warned of its irreversible consequences. Moreover it sets a very dangerous precedent for other Protected Areas in Kenya threatened by infrastructure projects, mining, and unregulated urban and agricultural expansion. It especially undermines the budding conservancy movement in which hundreds of Kenyans have invested their land in conservation.

To ensure that the railway has minimal impact, WildlifeDirect will be monitoring compliance on all the conditions of the license and laws of Kenya. Speaking on phone from London, Dr. Paula Kahumbu said, “While we acknowledge that infrastructure development is urgently required in Kenya, WildlifeDirect is concerned that it greatly amplifies threats to wildlife. We commit to supporting the efforts of the Government of Kenya and the Kenya Railways to ensure that they deliver in their promise of ensuring minimal environmental degradation impact of the Park, while improving the conservation status of wildlife across Kenya.”

In April 2016, Kenya’s conservation reputation received a boost when President Uhuru Kenyatta set aflame 105 tonnes of ivory. This historic event sent out a clear message that protecting our national heritage is more important than short-term economic gain. At this time of rapid economic growth for Africa, the challenge of protecting wildlife will increasingly require a well informed and engaged public, infrastructures that work, and the rule of law to be upheld. WildlifeDirect invites Kenyans from all walks of life to support environmentally friendly developments that protect our country’s unique natural heritage, and to report on any developments that are in violation of the country’s environmental policies.

 

For more information please contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager

Email: psewe@wildlifedirect.org

Telephone: +254 (0)705-515709

Tracking Technology Deployed to Help Keep Giant Tusker from Crops

Nairobi September  16, 2016: One of Kenya’s largest tuskers has been fitted with a GPS tracking collar to allow Kenya Wildlife Service and their non-governmental partners to prevent him from raiding the farms surrounding Amboseli National Park.

Known as Tim, the iconic bull elephant has gained international fame on account of his tusks, but local notoriety because of his habit of entering farms in the Kimana area to feed to crops. The tracking collar gives rangers on the ground the ability to track the tusker’s movements and deploy into farmland areas when he approaches and chase him from the area using a variety of deterrents.

“We are committed to exploring effective methods to keep our communities safe while securing all of our elephants,” said Kitili Mbathi, Director General of KWS, who took part in the operation.

The 47 year-old bull has been monitored by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants since he was born in December 1969 to a cow named Trista. His grandmother was the matriarch Teresia, leader of Amboseli’s TD family. After the operation to fit his tracking collar, Tim began walking towards the Trust’s research centre, and spent a morning resting there.

“It will be wonderful to see his life in even finer detail now that his every move is being followed,” said Cynthia Moss, Founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

The tracking system developed and donated by Save the Elephants will allow rangers from KWS and Big Life to monitor his movements using mobile devices and a VHF tracking antenna. When Tim crosses a virtual line near farmland, an alert will also be sent to warn them to prepare for his arrival. The high-tech GPS tracking collar was made by Kenyan firm Savannah Tracking.
Nairobi, September 16th, 2016:

“Tim’s new collar should give rangers a crucial advantage in preventing conflict between farmers and this iconic elephant, while also helping us to understand how to plan landscapes to keep our two species apart,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

KWS and Big Life rangers will be on call 24 hours a day to respond. “Despite being injured twice while raiding farms, Tim seems unable to resist the temptation of ripe tomatoes. Now with a collar that shows us his location at any time, our problem animal control teams will be able to be one step of ahead of him and keep him away from farms. Another great example of technology enabling conservation,” said Big Life Director Richard Bonham.

WildlifeDirect raised the funds that will to support the KWS and Big Life Foundation ground teams.

“To collar a majestic wild animal so that he can live out his life in peace and safety is an unnatural act. To build fences where farms have been allowed to encroach on historic migration paths in order to protect the lives of both settlers and animals – those, too, are unnatural acts. But if that’s what it takes to protect our wildlife, I support and encourage all of it,” said WildlifeDirect’s Board Director Scott Asen.

About KWS – www.kws.org About Big Life – www.biglife.org

About WildlifeDirect – www.wildlifedirect.org

About Amboseli Trust for Elephants – www.elephanttrust.org

About Save the Elephants – www.savetheelephants.org

Download Press Release here

For More Information Contact:

Paul Gathitu – KWS Spokesperson +254 723 333 313

Frank Pope – Save the Elephants COO +254 725 777 552

CELEBRATING WORLD ELEPHANT DAY IN SAMBURU WITH KENYAN CHILDREN

Nairobi, 09 August 2016: This week, WildlifeDirect is celebrating World Lion Day and World Elephant Day by taking 100 children to Samburu National Reserve for a 3 day camping expedition from 12th -14th August 2016. The expedition brings participating children aged 9 – 14 drawn from 10 schools in Nairobi Urban slums, Laikipia, and Samburu.

World Lion Day is marked on 10th August and World Elephant Day on August 12, 2016 to raise awareness about the plight facing elephants and lions and also to encourage people around the world to work together to support the conservation of these magnificent creatures.

To celebrate these days this year, WildlifeDirect has partnered with the Perfect World Foundation, the Embassy of the United States of America to Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service, Save the Elephants, Ewaso Lions Project, Samburu Reserve and Mpala Research Center.

These field trips are much more than a day out for the children, they are an opportunity for discovery, learning and fun. Children will work with scientists to study the elephants and lions, record data and engage Samburu elders in conversations about the culture and heritage. Kenya’s famous Richard Turere the inventor of Lion Lights, a device used to deter lions from livestock will be amongst the children attending the day. WildlifeDirect is conducting this camping tour with children following recommendations from young Kenyans a year ago that children want to visit parks and undertake meaningful activities to help conserve the national heritage.

WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor. WildlifeDirect campaigns for justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.

Follow our expedition via twitter and the hashtag #WatotoPorini.

To document the three day event starting from Friday to Sunday, please contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager
Email: psewe@wildlifedirect.org
Telephone: +254 (0)705-515709

Notorious Kenyan Ivory Trafficker Jailed for 20 Years and Fined USD 200,000

Nairobi, 22 July 2016: Today a Mombasa Law Court pronounced judgement in a landmark ruling of Feisal Mohamed Ali and five others.

Feisal Mohamed Ali was found guilty of illegal possession of ivory under Section 95 of the Wildlife Act (2013). He has been sentenced to 20 years in jail and fined 20 million shillings (USD 200,000) – the minimum was 1 million (USD 10,000) and a jail sentence of 20 years (the minimum was 5 years).

The other 5 co-accused were acquitted. Prosecution shall be appealing against the ruling on acquittal of the 5 accused while the defense team of the 6th accused will appeal the conviction and sentence.

The outcome of this case shows Kenya’s seriousness in handling wildlife crime. This is the biggest ivory trafficking case in Kenya’s history and the outcome is being monitored keenly by conservationists and the legal fraternity.
As she handed down her landmark sentence, Judge Hon. Diana Mochache said that poaching is a menace in Kenya. She stated that Kenyans never understood why poaching happens, and declared that one must not wear ivory ornaments. She warned of grave consequences if something is not done drastically to stop the poaching and that children would only know elephants from what they read. She reminded the court that in Kenya, we don’t have many elephants, and that elephants are the source of pride and heritage in Kenya. She noted that elephants are so adored that companies like Nakumatt use the elephant in their branding. But more than150 elephants were killed to supply the ivory involved in this case and she stated that this was why the court must put away the people who commit these crimes.

The trial had been challenged from the start, and has been heard by three different magistrates. Another inquiry connected to this case is ongoing with regards to the tampering of evidence.
Feisal and 5 co-accused were arrested in association with a seizure of 2.1 tons of ivory (314 pieces) on 5th of June 2014. They were charged with illegal possession of ivory under Section 95 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013).
“This is an excellent result for the people of Kenya and for elephants. It shows that with the necessary support from KWS, ODPP and the judiciary, a just and powerful result can be delivered. It would have been a better outcome if he was sentenced life imprisonment considering the magnitude of the crime and its implications for wildlife,” said former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor.

It is the first time that Kenya has prosecuted a large ivory seizure to conclusion and it sends a very strong message to poachers and traffickers that Kenya will not tolerate them.
WildlifeDirect congratulates the ODPP team whose prosecution was challenged by seven defense lawyers. The case has taken 2 years, and famously involved the arrest of Feisal Mohamed Ali in Tanzania following an Interpol red notice after he escaped Kenya when initially charged. He remained a fugitive for 7 months and was arrested on Christmas Eve in 2014. Feisal is the only accused person in this trial who was held in custody throughout the period despite several attempts to obtain bail.
WildlifeDirect has been watching brief on behalf of civil society, communities that derive their livelihoods from wildlife in Kenya.

###

WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former Director of Public Prosecutions, Philip Murgor. WildlifeDirect campaigns for justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.

Press contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect
Email: psewe@wildlifedirect.org

African Nations Call On the World to Help Them Save African Elephants

Montreux, 29 June 2016: The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), comprising 29 African countries, are calling on the world to join them in saving elephants. The Montreux Manifesto, agreed at a meeting of the Coalition in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June, launches a social media campaign – #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade, #Vote4Elephants” – to gain support for their five-part package to put an end to the ivory trade and afford elephants the highest protection under international law.

The AEC’s package, consisting of five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa, is designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants. Taken together, the proposals would ban the international trade in ivory by listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I, close domestic ivory markets around the world, encourage better management of ivory stockpiles and where possible their destruction, end further debate in CITES on a mechanism to legalize ivory trade, and limit exports of live African elephants to conservation projects in their natural habitat.

“The Montreux Manifesto shows that our message is clear.”, says Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition, “we need to all pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.”

The Coalition expressed its deep concern about the crisis facing elephants and its conviction that a ban on international and domestic trade in ivory is the best way to protect elephants.

“CITES saved African elephants from certain extinction 27 years ago by listing them on Appendix I,” says Vera Weber, president of the Swiss-based Fondation Franz Weber, a partner organization of the AEC, which facilitated the meeting. “Since then the protection of elephants has been weakened, and poaching has escalated. The AEC has charted a path to relist elephants on Appendix I and ban the ivory trade once and for all.”

The Manifesto appeals to governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and CITES representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.

NOTES

The five proposals submitted by the AEC to CITES are:

1. Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I
The proposal seeks to unify all African elephant populations and their range States in one Appendix I listing, ending split-listing through the transfer from Appendix II of the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The African elephant as a species is not constrained within State borders, nor indeed are national populations. Many are shared with more than one country, arguing for a unified approach to their regulation under CITES. This action seeks to gain the maximum protection for elephants by simplifying and improving enforcement and sending a clear message to the world that ivory cannot be legally traded under international law.

2. Closure of domestic ivory markets
This proposal calls for closure of all domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory. Closing all internal markets in range, transit and end-user consumer States would drastically reduce opportunities for the laundering of poached ivory, under the guise that it is antique, “pre-Convention” or otherwise legally acquired. It would also reinforce the message that all ivory sales should be stopped, as they are dangerous for elephants.

3. Ivory stockpile destruction and management
This proposal builds on two earlier papers submitted to the CITES Standing Committee in 2014 and 2016, which led to recognition by the Committee of the destructions of ivory stockpiles by governments since 2011, and a recommendation to develop guidance on stockpile management. It endorses ivory destruction, encourages the highest possible standards of stockpile management, and requests the CITES Secretariat to provide the best available technical guidance on stockpile inventories, audit, management and disposal, including DNA sampling to determine the origin of items in the stockpile.

4. The Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM)
The proposal recommends that the CoP should end negotiations on the DMM. In view of the concerted global efforts to reduce demand for ivory, the existence of negotiations on a DMM process to legalize trade sends precisely the wrong message – that a legal and sustainable ivory trade is possible, and could reopen in the not-too-distant future. The DMM not only poses unacceptable risks for elephants, but has also generated valid objections among Parties, as shown by the fact that CITES has been unable to make any progress in negotiations after 9 years.

5. Restricting trade in live elephants
The proposal aims to end the export of African elephants outside their natural range, including export to zoos and other captive facilities overseas. Such exports provide no direct benefit to conservation of elephants in their range States (as noted by the IUCN-SSC African Elephant Specialist Group), and there are considerable objections within Africa on ethical and cultural grounds. African elephants, along with their ivory, should remain in Africa.

· The African Elephant Coalition was established in 2008 in Bamako, Mali. It comprises 29 member countries from Africa united by a common goal: “a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from international ivory trade.” The meeting in Montreux from 24-26 June will be the seventh meeting of the Coalition since it was founded.

· The 29 member countries of the African Elephant Coalition include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda. Of the 29 countries represented in the Coalition, 25 of them are African elephant range States, comprising the majority (68%) of the 37 countries in which African elephants occur in the wild.

· Fondation Franz Weber (FFW), based in Switzerland, actively fights to preserve wildlife and nature in Africa and works worldwide to protect animals as individuals through the recognition of their rights and the abolition of inhumane practices.

· The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established in 1973, entered into force in 1975, and accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. Currently 182 countries are Parties to the Convention. The 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will be held in Johannesburg from 24 September to 5 October 2016. The Conference meets every three years.

CONTACTS

· Vera Weber, Fondation Franz Weber: +41 (0)79 210 54 04 / veraweber@ffw.ch
· Don Lehr, Media Relations Consultant: +1 917 304 4058 / dblehr@cs.com
· Patricia Awori, AEC Secretariat : +254 722 510 848 / aworipat@africanelephantcoalition.org

http://www.africanelephantcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Manifesto.pdf

PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Eyes in the Court transform poaching rates in Kenya

Nairobi, 31 May 2016: WildlifeDirect announces the launch of its second Courtroom Monitoring Report, detailing the outcomes of wildlife crime trials at courts across Kenya during 2014–2015. “By holding the judiciary to account, the programme ‘Eyes in the Courtroom’ provides for the first time, a window into the effectiveness of prosecutions in Kenyan courts, information which has led to major reforms in the charging decisions, filing, and management of wildlife trials”, said Philip Mugor, Chairman of WildlifeDirect-Kenya and former Director of Public Prosecutions.

The report analyses data gathered in 50 courtrooms during the first two years of implementation of the Wildlife Conservation & Management Act, 2013.

An earlier survey by WildlifeDirect concluded that low penalties and corruption in courts made Kenya a safe haven leading to escalating poaching and trafficking of ivory across the country. Since the enactment of the new law with severe penalties, and the implementation of major judicial reforms, poaching rates have collapsed dramatically and Kenya’s elephant populations are now on the rise. WildlifeDirect’s ‘Eyes in the Courtroom’ now reports significant improvements in courtroom record keeping and effectiveness of prosecutions and courts across the country are imposing harsh penalties laid down in the new Wildlife Act. Twice as many people are going to jail than before, and for the first time in history, suspected major ivory traffickers are being prosecuted, most notably Feisal Mohamed Ali who is linked to a seizure of 2.1 tons of ivory seized in the Kenyan port town of Mombasa.

However, the team of lawyers also warn that endemic delays and corruption mean that too many criminals are still walking free from the courts. WildlifeDirect has exposed on numerous occasions the fact that to date no high-level ivory trafficker has been convicted and sentenced by Kenyan courts. The undermining of wildlife trials by corruption is the elephant in the room. Numerous cases are failing due to low level corruption which includes the loss of evidence, witnesses fatigue, loss of files, wrong charges, wrongful conclusions, and illegal penalties. What’s worse is that there are no consequences for those involved in undermining these cases. Virtually none of the officers involved have been disciplined, let alone sacked or prosecuted. What message does it send to fellow officers when a policeman commanding a station gets away with compromising evidence? It’s true that in many cases it’s hard to distinguish corruption from simple inefficiency. But whether the officers involved are complicit in corruption or simply incompetent, it is unacceptable that Kenyan tax payers continue to pay for their salaries.

Efforts must be focussed on investigations, evidence, prosecutions and speedy trial conclusions with deterrent punishments in order for the Kenyan court system to have a decisive deterrent effect on wildlife criminals. “Eyes in the Courtroom is an innovative project with the potential to end the impunity of wildlife criminals not just in Kenya but across Africa. While this latest report gives hope it also highlights just how much remains to be done if these iconic species are to be effectively protected by the law,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder of Save the Elephants.
The report concludes that, while much has improved, Kenya has not achieved the desired situation. The research was funded by Save the Elephants.

# # #
WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded by Richard Leakey and chaired in Kenya by Senior Advocate and former DPP Philip Murgor. We seek justice for wildlife to ensure Africa’s magnificent wildlife endures forever.

Press contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager, WildlifeDirect:
Mobile: +254 705 515709 | Email: psewe@wildlifedirect.org

Speech: Kitili Mbathi, Director General-KWS

Speech: Philip Murgor, Board Chair-WildlifeDirect (Kenya)

Suspended Prison Sentence for Beijing Immigration Officer Aiding Ivory Import (China/Burundi)

Wujin News Portal
Feb. 18th, 2015
Former Immigration Officer at Beijing International Border Inspection, sir named Zhu received a 3-year suspended prison sentence for helping Chinese passenger LI Hongli returning from Africa to smuggle ivory products into the country. Their interaction was observed in a controlled-delivery operation by Customs. They were caught at the Custom Inspection point at Beijing International Airport, trying to smuggle 12.98 kg of ivory. Li was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The sentences were handed out by Beijing Mid-Level Third Court.
In August 2013, 37-year old Li went to Kenya to watch the wildlife migration. From Kenya he went on to Burundi, where he found ivory for sale on the markets. Knowing that it is illegal to take ivory back to China, he was attracted by the low price. He purchased necklaces, bracelets, name seals, chess sets and statues made of ivory, spending $3000.
Li’s contacts back home helped him find Zhu who has access to secure areas at Beijing Airport. She agreed to help Li. On September 6, 2013, upon arrival at Beijing airport, Li met Zhu at the luggage carousel and gave her a piece of his checked luggage to clear Customs. Unbeknownst to them, Customs had inspected the plane cargo when it landed and identified the two pieces of luggage suspected of containing ivory. They followed the pair and caught them red handed when Zhu try to evade X-ray inspection of the luggage using her airport special pass.
One of the arguments used by Li’s defense lawyer was that there is a legal domestic ivory market in Burundi. Li’s purchase of ivory was legal. And that he intended to use the ivory for the purpose of personal use and gifting, not for sale. Zhu received a suspended sentence because she pleaded guilty, claimed not knowing the exact amount of the contraband and was only an accomplice to the crime.

A Young Chinese Conservationist Discusses His Country’s Role in the Ivory Trade

A Young Chinese Conservationist Discusses His Country’s Role in the Ivory Trade
Christina Russo, A Voice for Elephants, National Geographic

June 2, 2014

Gao Yufang, 26, is a Chinese researcher and conservationist who graduated last month with a masters from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

At Yale, Gao focused his studies on the ivory trade, with emphasis on the varied, sometimes conflicting understanding about the Chinese role in it. This, he believes, creates obstacles to stopping the slaughter of African elephants.

During the past two years Gao has conducted research in Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Hong Kong, and mainland China and analyzed nearly 3,000 Chinese news articles, as well as a large volume of statistical data on the Chinese ivory market.

Last December, at the invitation of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Botswana government, he spoke as a youth ambassador at the African Elephant Summit in Botswana.

This month, Gao will be returning to China and hosting two African conservationists—Resson Kantai and Christopher Kiarie, also in their 20s—on a tour of China’s ivory markets.

Russo: Tell me about your forthcoming trip to China.

Gao: The three of us are going to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Quanzhou, Fuzhou, and Shanghai. These are the main ivory trading centers in China. We’re going to visit these cities and talk to the general public, the Chinese media, and Chinese conservation groups about elephant conservation. We hope to create a China-Africa conservation fellowship.

Do you think youth are particularly important in this conversation?

Many people, even in the Chinese conservation community, are not participating in elephant conservation or talking about the ivory trade. Because of the lack of participation from Chinese civil society, there’s lots of misinformation about the Chinese ivory trade. Most of the ivory researchers are not Chinese.

My generation—the youth generation—is the most active group in Chinese society. With this trip, we are trying to create the opportunity for youth to participate, because actually they’re really keen and energetic and enthusiastic about elephant conservation when they learn about it. If we provide them the opportunity, they will take it.

What led you to study the ivory trade while you were at Yale?

When I came to Yale in September 2012, everyone was talking about ivory trade. As a Chinese in the U.S. who understood how the conservation community in China works, I was seeing a great gap in understanding the ivory trade. I felt that people were—and are—talking past each other. So I got curious: What is really going on here? And this curiosity motivated me to take on the ivory trade project.

What did you notice about the way China, the U.S., and Africa “spoke” to each other about the trade and the poaching crisis?

What I found is one of the major obstacles for solving this elephant poaching problem is that each party has a very different view about the motivations and constraints of the other parties.

What are some of the misperceptions from Africa’s perspective about China?

Africa’s perspective is influenced by the West’s perspective. Many African conservationists have never been to China, and what they know about the ivory trade is usually from the news media or Western international conservation organizations.

In this Western narrative, most people believe elephant poaching is caused by Chinese demand for ivory. Also, that China’s economic development has created a large middle class and this middle class buys ivory for social status.

Is this true?

If you say hundreds of millions of Chinese middle class [people] are demanding ivory, this is an exaggeration of the ivory market in China.

The majority of the Chinese never see ivory in daily life. In my research, I estimate that over 99 percent of Chinese never buy ivory, and the potential ivory buyers are less than one percent of the Chinese population.

The problem is that China has a very large population, so even a small percentage can have a great impact. Ivory is a tiny industry in China, and Chinese government officials say they’re worried about the counterproductive impacts of this exaggeration. But it is also true that China does bear an inescapable responsibility in the trade.

You have found that this concept of the “middle class” itself is somewhat misguided. You explain it’s more specific than that, and the primary ivory buyers are the baofahu or tuhao.

Yes, the Western media and conservation organizations talk about the middle class, but it is actually more specific. From a typical Chinese perception, the baofahu and tuhao are the major buyers of ivory. The charactersistics of the baofahu or tuhao are that they are very rich—but also very uneducated—and they want to show off their social status.

This is still not the whole picture, because the ivory market in China is very diverse. Attributing the problem to baofahu underestimates ivory consumption, while attributing the problem to [the] middle class overestimates the ivory demand. The truth is in the middle.

Photograph by Robert Sutcliffe/Elephants Without Borders
Please talk about the ivory markets in China.

There are three types: the white, the black, and the gray.

The white market is the legal ivory market. The black market is the illegal market. The gray market [is] where the legality is uncertain.

So the white market consists of 145 ivory shops and ivory repair outlets and 37 ivory factories. Most of these facilities are located in the eastern part of China, especially Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. And the number of these legal ivory facilities has increased from 40 in 2004 to 182 in 2014.

Many Western NGOs and media have already talked about the legal market. And some researchers and journalists went to investigate the legal market and found a lot of loopholes and violations of the ivory identification and registration policy.

The black market takes two forms, and the first is the physical market. The other is the online market. In the past few years, the Chinese government has tightened control of the physical black market. So what I found is that many ivory dealers are now shifting their business to online trading.

One of the main forms of online trading is the Baidu Post Bar. Ivory traders will sell the ivory by using some [other] word—they don’t say it’s “ivory” but will say it’s “white plastic,” for example. Every day people visit the bar, and the illegal ivory traders post photos of raw ivory or worked ivory. And they ask potential consumers to contact them and communicate on Wechat, which is the Chinese version of WhatsApp. The illegal dealers will then send the ivory to the buyers.

Is this bar internationally used, or just domestically?

The bar is an Internet platform, so everyone around the world, as long as they can read Chinese, can go to the website. But the trade is within China. Chinese dealers sell the illegal ivory to Chinese buyers. Some dealers have direct connections with middlemen in Africa.

Tell me about the gray market.

The gray market is the live auction market of ivory art works. I feel this is very important. Sometimes, when talking about the auction market in China, many conservationists, especially English-speaking conservationists, confuse this with the online auction. This is a live, off-line market.

Why is this off-line market so important?

This is where the big money is. In the gray market, the current ivory registration and identification system doesn’t distinguish antique ivory from new ivory. But the ivory collectors do distinguish antique and new ivory. And antique ivory is the most expensive.

According to the Chinese ivory control policy, all ivory in China can only be sold in the white market, the legal market. But because the auction market is a very new thing, it is not well regulated.

How does this gray market affect the ivory trade and poaching?

The trade trend of ivory at the off-line market started to increase around 2006, mushroomed after 2009, and then peaked in 2011. After 2011 it suddenly diminished.

Before 2011, the trend of the ivory gray market is significantly correlated to elephant poaching in Africa. The price can be incredibly high in the gray market. The Chinese media, when they talk about the ivory market, usually [mean] the auction market. So those ivory carvings that achieve an incredibly high price bring lots of attention from the media, and this in turn increases the perception that ivory is a good investment. People anticipate that if they buy an ivory carving at this moment, in the future it’s going to make a lot of money.

Another step in my research is to understand the conditions that caused the different trends in the three markets. May I explain this?

Yes, absolutely.

Many conservation groups, animal welfare groups, and the media believe the 2009 CITES one-off sale stimulated ivory demand. This is the perception of many reports. But I’m not satisfied with this. To understand what caused ivory demand in China, we need to understand why Chinese buy ivory. We need to understand the different values of ivory in Chinese perception.

Chinese society has attached many values to ivory. The economic value of carved ivory as a good investment is the first. The second is the social value of ivory. The third is the cultural value of ivory as a traditional art. Ivory carving in 2006 was officially designated as a national intangible cultural heritage. The fourth value is the esthetic value—those who believe ivory is very beautiful, the necklaces and bangles they think are very pretty. The fifth is the religious value, such as ivory statues and guru beads, Buddhist ivory pendants, and statues of Quan Yin. The last is the medical value. Some people believe that if you wear ivory bangles, for example, it’s good for your health.

It’s also important that we understand the social change that promoted some of these values. I identified two trends.

The first was the preservation of traditional culture. In 2002 the Chinese authorities started to recognize the importance of protecting traditional culture, and there were lots of initiatives launched to protect this, and ivory carving is just one. The carvers seized on this opportunity, and ivory carving became an official national intangible cultural heritage in 2006. This increased the cultural value of ivory, and it’s one reason the authorities would like to have the ivory trade.

The second, and most important, trend is the boom of arts investment in China, especially after 2008 and 2009, because around this time the stock market and real estate market didn’t perform as well as expected. So people started to invest in many forms of arts and antiques and collectibles, and this included furniture, paintings, antique books, and ivory.

This art market is related to the gray market, because the auction market is an important channel for liquidation [of] investment[s]. The arts investment boom increased the value of ivory as an investment alternative that has driven ivory demand in China.

But in 2011 the authorities imposed an ivory auction off-line ban. A lot of Chinese news articles talked about this ban, but the English media rarely talk about this. This is important: Because of this ban, the ivory gray market suddenly diminished, and the [price] increase of ivory slowed down.

Some groups in China are now lobbying to drop the ban. The problem is that because it’s poorly regulated, new ivory can enter the market and can be fabricated to look antique.

In your research, did you come to understand whether Chinese buyers of ivory know—or care—that elephants are being killed for the their ivory?

Professional ivory investors know a lot about ivory, and they know a lot about elephant poaching. They distinguish the different types of ivory—they say it’s yellow, white, or blood ivory, and they have different explanations for each kind.

Some of these professional investors openly say that blood ivory is from [a] poached elephant. And the ivory was got when the elephant was still alive. Of all the kinds of ivory, blood ivory is the most expensive. So they know exactly where the ivory comes from.

But the general public, who simply buy ivory because of, say, its esthetic value, I believe they don’t know the ivory came from poached elephants. They simply consider ivory the same as other beautiful jewelry, like jade.

So let me get this straight. From everything you are telling me, Chinese professional investors and art collectors are the most influential group driving the trade in your opinion?

Yes.

But we must distinguish between collectors and investors. Investors care about money. Collectors also care about cultural value and esthetic value. And the collectors, some of them are really good people. They want ivory from legal source[s]. The collectors can be very law abiding.

When you graduated from Yale, you decorated your hat in honor of Mountain Bull, an iconic Kenyan elephant who was recently killed for his ivory.

At Yale we have a tradition of decorating our hats. People know me as “the elephant guy.” So I put an elephant on my head, and at that time Mountain Bull was killed.

I feel I have the responsibility to help elephant conservation in Africa. I’ve received a lot of support from many, many people, and it’s those people, the ones who are motivated by their genuine love for the elephants, that most encourage me.

I realize this problem is very complicated. Many people here in the U.S. care a lot about [the] elephant because of its intrinsic value and because they feel a moral responsibility or they want to protect [it] for the next generation. But Africans may have different concerns—about livelihood and issues about development and well-being. You cannot simply impose your own values and ask them to have the same feeling you do.

So what I’m trying to do is to listen to the different actors, whether U.S. rich people or local African people who are suffering from conflict with elephants and must think about next meals or the Chinese who care about culture. I try to understand all this, and how we can bring people together to find common ground. I really believe ensuring a viable future for elephants is the common interest for the global community.

Huge Haul of Smuggled Ivory Came From Kenya (Cambodia)

By Khy Sovuthy and Simon Henderson, The Cambodia Daily

May 23, 2014
The three-ton haul of illegal elephant ivory seized by port officials on May 9 originated in Kenya and was then shipped through Malaysia to Cambodia in two freight containers, the chief of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port’s customs and excise department said Thursday.

The General Department of Customs held a press conference Thursday to provide the first update since May 12 on the investigation into Cambodia’s biggest ever seizure of illegal ivory. But customs officials did not mention whether the investigation had identified any person or persons responsible for the smuggled ivory, and declined to respond to questions on the identity of the smugglers.

“After investigating this case we have discovered that the 3,008 kg of ivory was transported from Kenya in Africa,” Kin Ly, the head of the Sihanoukville port’s customs and excise department, told reporters.

He explained that port authorities were alerted about the containers by the regional intelligence liaison office of the Customs Enforcement Network, a global intelligence service monitoring shipping cargo.

The containers were supposed to be carrying beans from Malaysia, but a scan after their arrival at Sihanoukville revealed a cargo of more than 500 elephant tusks.

Most of the elephant tusks smuggled through Southeast Asia are bound for Vietnam and China, which have lucrative black markets for ivory, and Bun Chiv, deputy chief of the port’s customs office, said Thursday that the final destination of the Kenyan ivory was almost certainly not Cambodia.

“Cambodia was not the destination country for this ivory,” he said.

Neither he nor Mr. Ly would answer questions regarding the shipping company that consigned the containers, Olair Worldwide Logistics, which has two office listings in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville.

The company is registered with the Ministry of Commerce as having three shareholders: Seang Sokhorn, Eang Chantha and Huy Soly.

Neither the company nor the shareholders could be reached Thursday.

Two Nairobi police officers arrested with ivory at a Thika roadblock (Kenya)

Standard Digital Reporter
May 3rd 2014
NAIROBI, KENYA: Two serving police officers were Friday night arrested while transporting ivory from Meru to Nairobi. A statement from Kenya Wildlife Service ( KWS) said the two were netted at a police roadblock along Nairobi-Thika highway. They suspects have been booked at Thika Police Station for the rest of the weekend awaiting arraignment in court. “ KWS officials are preparing to prefer charges against the suspects on Monday (May 4, 2014) at a Thika Law Court relating to being in illegal possession and dealing with a trophy of an endangered species.” The statement said. The two who serve at different police stations in Nairobi County used a private car to ferry the ivory destined for Nairobi. KWS said its officers and Police executed the arrest following a tip off from members of the public.