Tag Archives: Mozambique

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

Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants

Andreas Wilson-Spath, Daily Maverick
November 28, 2014
While the crisis is complex, with root causes in chronic poverty, the absence of sustainable economic alternatives and a burgeoning demand for wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn, the wheels of this multi-billion dollar industry are liberally greased by bribery and corruption at all levels of government in several African countries.
Even a cursory summary of the epidemic’s lowlights, makes for depressing reading:
Tanzania
Fast becoming Africa’s chief source of illicit ivory, Tanzania has lost two-thirds of its elephants to poaching since 2006. Collusion between corrupt government officials and criminal syndicates has been identified as the root cause. Game rangers provide critical information to poachers, police officers supply guns, Tanzanian Revenue Authority officers release containers of ivory for export, and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party functionaries offer high-level protection for trafficking operations.
In 2012 a list of individuals involved in elephant poaching, including prominent politicians, was handed to President Jakaya Kikwete. The following year, four CCM members of parliament, among them the party’s Secretary-General, Abdulrahman Kinana, were named for their involvement. None of the individuals implicated have been investigated further or arrested.
In 2013, Tanzania’s Auditor General criticised the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Division for the significant quantities of stockpiled elephant tusks that have gone missing while in its care and for under-reporting official poaching figures.
Earlier this year, police officers supplied poachers with weapons and access to the famed Selous Reserve, taking delivery of the ivory once five elephants had been killed.
A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report notes that “the highest levels of the Tanzanian government” are ultimately responsible for the decimation of the country’s elephant population by failing to ensure that wildlife laws are enforced and by not achieving higher conviction rates when cases are brought to court.
Zambia
In 2013, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, dismissed Edwin Matokwani, the Director-General of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) along with a number of his colleagues on the basis of malpractice and corruption involving commercial hunting companies.
In the same year, Defence Minister, Geoffrey Mwamba, was caught at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport with three large bags of elephant tusks. He was released without charge after claiming diplomatic immunity. The tusks were confiscated by ZAWA, but reappeared in the luggage of a Chinese diplomat at the same airport two days later. No further action was taken.
Mozambique
Poaching incidents reported to the Mozambican police and border guard are rarely followed up, cases are known to be squashed pending the payment of bribes, and offenders are released uncharged after a “deposit” of cash has been made.
A “web of official complicity” involving administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado, including the Criminal Investigation Police, prosecuting attorneys and the courts, facilitates the industrial-scale elephant slaughter in the region. Government officials are known to have supplied poachers with high-calibre weapons, provided access to protected areas and smoothed the transportation of ivory and rhino horn out of the country.
In 2010, twelve elephants were killed in Mecula District using weapons supplied by police. The following year, eight Frontier Guard members were caught selling 350 kilograms of seized ivory. Instead of facing punishment, they were transferred to a different area.
Since 2012, several tonnes of ivory have disappeared from Mozambique’s official stockpile. High-level collusion by government officials is suspected.
The ruling Frelimo party stands accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales from more than 50 elephants poached in Niassa National Reserve with military equipment to fund its 2012 congress in Pemba.
In return for a bribe, airport customs officers in Maputo are known not to search luggage leaving the country, while customs and police officers provide similar services for containers shipped out of Pemba by Chinese timber companies. Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Majante has been accused of facilitating the passage of ivory and other contraband through Pemba’s airport and harbour.
A considerable proportion of the hundreds of poachers arrested or killed in the Kruger National Park have been members of the Mozambican army, police and border guard.
Uganda
Earlier this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was asked to assist in the apprehension of high-ranking government officials involved in illegal wildlife trafficking. No action was taken.
This month, more than a tonne of stockpiled ivory went missing from a Ugandan government vault. A local newspaper claims that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials in cahoots with traffickers are responsible for widespread ivory theft. Since then, six top UWA employees, including executive director Andrew Seguya, have been suspended pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Sudan
Militias allied to the Sudanese government are alleged to engage in elephant poaching operations as far afield as Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), trafficking ivory via the government in Khartoum and its military.
South Sudan
Ending in 2005, the two-decade-long war between south and north Sudan reduced the local elephant population from more than 80 000 to less than 5000. Since then, ongoing internal military conflict between the official government army and rebel forces threatens to eradicate it altogether as soldiers butcher elephants and other wildlife for meat and ivory.
DRC
The DRC’s army is believed by many observers to be the leading poacher in the vast eastern regions of the country. Until leaving in 2011, Uganda’s occupying People’s Defence Force was also linked to poaching.
South Africa
A number of key officials canvassed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 2012 consider corruption connected to wildlife crime to be rife in South Africa, particularly with regards to issuing of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) permits. Formal action against corrupt officials remains the exception.
Zimbabwe
Elite members of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF are controlling increasingly large tracts of wildlife areas in the country and some are believed to be supplementing their foreign currency income through elephant and rhino poaching there.
In 2013, poachers allegedly linked to well-know senior ZANU-PF members, police officers and Zimbabwe Wildlife Management officials used cyanide to kill more than 100 elephants in Hwange National Park (HNP).
This year, the country’s last free-roaming elephant herd, which is supposedly protected from hunting and culling by a Presidential decree, has come under threat. Defying a government directive, a woman named Elisabeth Pasalk, whose brother is a hunting safari operator, has illegally claimed part of the herd’s home range, established a safari lodge and declared the area a ‘conservancy’ – a common euphemism for ‘hunting concession’. Conservationists believe that the takeover was supported by “political influence from high places”, that illicit hunting is part of Pasalk’s plans and that the Presidential Elephants are the intended target. The Zimbabwean government has done nothing about the situation.
Time to act
The evidence is overwhelming: African governments are complicit in the wholesale slaughter of the continent’s wildlife heritage.
A number of them have made public commitments to stem the poaching tide. Tanzania, for instance, is a signatory of the 2014 London Conference Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade which calls for zero tolerance on corruption and President Kikwete has recently spoken in favour of a moratorium on all ivory sales. Yet Kikwete’s government has shown little intention of turning these promises into reality and remains deeply implicated in the disaster.
What’s needed is the political will to take drastic action – to identify and investigate corrupt activities related to wildlife crime at every level of government, to remove corrupt individuals – many of them well known – from office and to prosecute them under the provisions of the criminal justice system.
The international community, including CITES, bears part of the responsibility. By not fighting corruption vigorously enough, not sanctioning governments known to be corrupt, not enforcing international law, not establishing a total ban on international and domestic trading in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife commodities, and not calling for the destruction of all government stockpiles of such goods, they too are complicit in the unfolding catastrophe.
In July, the EIA and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) called on the US government to implement trade sanctions against Mozambique for its complicity in the slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa. President Obama’s government is yet to heed this urgent call.
Eradicating corruption will not end the disaster. But if we don’t stop the systemic corruption which is facilitating it, Africa’s poaching crisis will be terminal – an extermination order for rhinos, elephants, lions, pangolins and countless other irreplaceable species that will not survive the century in the face of unbridled human greed.

Chinese merchant gateways for ivory and rhino horns (Namibia)

From the Zambezi River to Joburg and Maputo
Hongxiang Huang and Oxpeckers, Pambazuka, Issue 673

April 10, 2014
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Namibia has enjoyed a good reputation for its nature conservation, but there is evidence the illegal trade in wildlife products is taking off.

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In the remote Zambezi region of Southern Africa, where Namibia shares international borders with Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, geography and opportunity create ideal circumstances for ivory poachers.

With more than 9,100 residential elephants and 30,000 migrating elephants, according to 2013 data, elephant poaching was not a serious issue in the transborder area until recently. In 2010 and 2011, the numbers of elephant poached in isolated cases were four and six respectively. However, in 2012 the situation changed, with at least 78 elephants poached by international smugglers in one year. By November 2013, official records showed that at least 20 elephants had been poached since the start of the year, and 35 smuggling suspects had been arrested.

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution and today more than 40 per cent of the country’s surface area is under conservation management. Community-based conservancies are well integrated into the tourism industry. In the Zambezi region, formerly known as Caprivi, officials noticed a growth in wildlife trafficking from around 2010. ‘That Chinese [man] you mentioned appears to be the most important middle player in it, although some other nationals have their channels as well,’ said Shadrick Siloka, chief warden in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) office of Katima, the capital of Zambezi region.

During my first visit to the MET office two days previously, officials had been reluctant to release any information, However, but once I shared some results from my own undercover investigation in the Chinese community of Katima, they were prepared to admit they were investigating the same person.

According to Siloka, the change in the status quo was associated with hearing the name of Guo Yunhui, a Chinese businessman in Katima. In 2010, the MET heard from informers that Guo was collecting pythons and pangolins. In 2011, Guo was arrested for buying two ivory tusks from MET staff, fined 20,000 Namibian dollars and released. But informers and the MET allege that he is again at the centre of the Namibian ivory trade, and is using the same transportation and trading routes as his formal business. My undercover investigation supported this theory.

In his everyday persona, Guo Yunhui is the owner of Sweet Guest House, the only Chinese hostel in Katima. Most of its clientele are Africans, many from Zambia. Like many other Chinese, he has his main business and then informal business, and consequently rarely shows up at his guesthouse, which is managed on a daily basis by two local women.

As a Chinese journalist I was able to meet and socialise with many Chinese shop owners in Katima, and to ask about Guo Yunhui and the trade in animal products. Zheng, a Chinese worker in a Chinese construction company near Katima, is a friend of Guo’s family and he visits them frequently. According to Zheng, Guo is still engaged in his wildlife smuggling business.

Chen, a Chinese businessman in Rundu, also confirmed that Guo is active in the business, although he didn’t characterise it as smuggling, but rather as helping Chinese in far-flung cities to acquire ivory souvenirs. Ou, a Chinese shop owner, claimed he lent Guo money when Guo was buying ivory in the past, and that Guo was conducting a lot of informal ‘side business’ of a dubious nature. However, Ou had not seen Guo for a long time.

Guo may not be the largest player in the Zambezi ivory market, according to Li, a leader in the Chinese-Fujian business communities of Namibia. Li referred to another Chinese man in Katima whom he said was found by police in early 2013 with more than 100kg of ivory, but MET said it did not know about the case. The low risk of getting caught, added to monetary incentives and the Chinese community’s lack of support for the Namibian conservation effort, are all factors encouraging and enabling wildlife smuggling.

Katima is a central hub of trading between trans-border African smugglers and Chinese shop keepers and traders. Chinese shops dominate the main road in town, and unlike employees from Chinese state-owned companies who are driven by state policy, these Chinese shop owners are usually self-driven immigrants simply looking for business space and an opportunity to make money.

Most of the time they are from second or third-tier cities or small towns in China where services are poor, and consequently they are characterized by low educational achievements and poor foreign language skills. Outside China, even the Chinese government does not have clear statistics about them, not to mention effective management.

My investigation indicated the majority of them are from Fujian province, including the ivory smuggler Guo Yunhui. Many of the shop owners are linked to the ivory trade in the guise of buying and selling of ivory souvenirs and artefacts for export and sale to tourists. Because of the widely perceived permissibility of the small ‘souvenir’ trade in ivory products, the Chinese community members are reluctant to blow the whistle on the larger ivory smugglers, and alleged involvement by Chinese diplomats themselves, even though they are aware that these individuals are ruining the reputation of Chinese businesspeople more generally in Africa.

Many Chinese shun the easy money to be made by ivory and rhino horn smuggling because they know it is wrong and illegal. But relations with host country law enforcement and conservation officers remain too weak for them to break their false loyalty to other Chinese nationals, even when they are indulging in criminal behaviour.

In Katima, it is common for Chinese people to be approached by African ivory sellers, mostly Zambians. Ou said in the 10 years he has lived in Zambezi he has been approached many times by sellers who tell him how high the profit is if he would transport ivory from Namibia to China.

This is confirmed by the MET, who recorded that the price Guo paid to the sellers of ivory was 300 Namibian dollars per kilo, whereas in Asia the selling price is at least 3 000 US dollars per kilo. In Oshikango, another border town west of Katima, I spoke to Yang, a shop owner in Chinatown. ‘Zambians used to come to our Chinatown with boxes full of ivory, and lots of Chinese shop owners have bought them,’ he said. He claimed to have taken small amounts of ivory back to China many times, and they were never found by customs.

Yang also said he had bought some rhino horn powder, but did not want to give further details ‘I know there are people smuggling full rhino horns back to China, but you are being too curious. Don’t ask too much about such things,’ he said.

‘In 2012 the amount of ivory we captured was 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the amount of ivory taken from poached elephants in Namibia,’ said Morgan Saisai, the chief control officer of MET in Katima. According to MET officials, the ivory on the Zambezi market is not only from local sources, but is being transported from surrounding countries. The criminal groups they have apprehended included Zambians, Congolese and Zimbabweans working with Namibians.

‘Zambia is where ivory and smugglers are most likely to come into Namibia,’ said Oswald Rall, a former policeman still living in the region. Katima is where it is easiest for the Chinese people to buy ivory from Zambians. Infrastructure is rapidly improving, at least because of Chinese road construction projects. Truck routes from Walvis Bay on the coast to Rundu and Katima, then on to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are relatively efficient and fast.

Using trucks and networks for transporting other goods businesses, ivory is transported to areas with the highest densities of Chinese. It is placed in the retail markets, and becomes small souvenirs for Chinese people to carry home to China in their luggage.

What is most worrying for the conservation of elephants is that the ivory trade is just one of a number of illegal behaviours which are viewed as normal and far from wrong among the Chinese residents. Eager to make personal gains, many do not care whether it is legal or not as long as punishment is avoidable. In such a context, buying small amounts of ‘souvenir’ ivory is not considered smuggling, so that a large ivory market is formed by many individuals buying small retail amounts which collectively represent a large amount wholesale. According to the Chinese who take home souvenirs, the chance of ivory being discovered by airport customs in Namibia or China is very low and even when it is found, the consequences are not severe.

During this investigation, many Chinese expressed the view that they wished the Chinese immigrant communities could be better managed in order to reduce the reputational damage being done to all Chinese people in Africa by the activities of just a few. This view is made more apposite as long as the small traders remain beyond the reach of the law, and are thus tempted to join the illegal trade.

While ivory trade in Namibia is not yet as large as in other African countries like Mozambique, it is growing. There is evidence that the scale of trade is more than a few Chinese families buying from Africans across the border and reselling small souvenirs to other Chinese people. In fact, this characterisation indicates a dangerous complacency, particularly as the evidence shows that much bigger volumes are trading through these networks – and they include wildlife products from other endangered species besides elephants.

China is responsible for an estimated 70 percent of the world trade in elephant tusk ivory, and research by the international wildlife trade monitoring organisation traffic indicates that nearly 80 percent of reported illegal rhino horn seizures in Asia between 2009 and late last year happened in China. For the first time, journalists from mainland China worked with African journalists on an undercover investigation into the Chinese role in the ivory and rhino horns market in South Africa and Mozambique.

Wildlife trafficking syndicates brazenly sell rhino horn and ivory at Chinese markets in Southern Africa’s capital cities, in the face of global attempts to crack down on the illicit trade in endangered species. Who are the people involved, and how do they go about buying these illegal products? Until it was closed, the Bruma Lake flea market in eastern Johannesburg and nearby New Chinatown have been a hub of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory in South Africa. Transactions between African sellers and Asian buyers occurred relatively openly on a daily basis.

From 9am to 5pm, sellers hung around the entrance to the Bruma flea market and eagerly surround Chinese people as they approach. ‘What are you looking for? Do you want xiangya? I have,’ said Mike, a seller who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘Do you have xiniujiao?’ we asked. Xiangya is the Chinese term for ivory, xiniujiao for rhino horns, and it is clear Mike, as well as many other shop owners, is familiar with the terms. ‘Xiniujiao… anytime but now. If you come back next month, maybe I could help you get some. Now it is impossible,’ said Mike.

He opened a door which is covered by a hanged blanket, showed us into a secret room near his craft shop where he has a stock of worked ivory products: small sculptures of elephants, chopsticks, necklaces, bracelets. The price is not too expensive, starting at $20 a piece. Matt, a Zimbabwean who works in Mike’s craft shop, said most of the rhino horns and ivory they are selling comes from his home country. He explained how he imports it: ‘There is a river that divides the two countries and we find a part where the water is not too deep and there is almost no security patrolling. We take off our clothes and carry the stuff on our shoulders across the river.’ His biggest concern was crocodiles in some parts of the Limpopo River.

Other shop owners in the market called out to us with offers of xiangya and xiniujiao. ‘Your Chinese friends may find it hard to get rhino horns, but we are Africans, we know how.’ said Ernest, another shop owner from the Congo,

Along Derrick Avenue in New Chinatown, home to most of Johannesburg’s recent Chinese immigrants, we spoke to Gong, a taxi driver whose business card includes various services related to immigration, the embassy and police. ‘It is easy to buy ivory and I could help you tell which ones are fake — I have been buying it for many years,’ he says.

Ivory is just one of the businesses Gong has engaged in since he immigrated to South Africa six years ago. Like most Chinese in the New Chinatown community, he did not have a good educational background and barely speaks English. He used to assist a friend running a brothel until police closed it down.

However, he does not think it is a good idea for a visitor to purchase rhino horns here because it has become too risky. ‘Nowadays it is more dangerous than drugs,’ he said. ‘Even if I could get it for you, I would not take the risk of selling it to an outsider like you rather than known partners. Ivory and rhino horns are like weed [dagga] and heroine.’

Gong says fewer Chinese are directly involved in smuggling rhino horn these days, although some still buy from Vietnamese traffickers. Consumers would be better advised to buy horn in China, where he could introduce us to sellers, he adds. China accounted for an estimated two-thirds of the number and weight of horns seized in Asia between 2009 and September 2012, according to figures collated by Traffic.

Many employees of Chinese companies in South Africa avoid New Chinatown, so named to distinguish it from the original Chinatown in central Johannesburg, because of its reputation for being involved with smuggling and other dangerous business. ‘I would usually not go to the New Chinatown area. There is a mix of good people and various criminals,’ says Zhang Jinguo, the head of the Chinese Construction Bank in Johannesburg.

Among the Chinese residents of Johannesburg, it is common knowledge that the Chinese buy ivory and rhino horn much more often in Maputo, capital city of neighbouring Mozambique. The Saturday market at Praça 25 de Junho in Maputo is the main buying site for employees of Chinese companies who are not well educated and have unskilled jobs. ‘The products are unique and cheap,’ says Chen, a frequent Chinese buyer in Maputo who works for a Chinese construction company.

At the Saturday market, Kai, a 29-year-old working for a Chinese telecommunications company, is shooting a video to send to his families in China. ‘Hello dears, look where I am. This is the most famous ivory market here, I will bring you some good stuff,’ he says.

Shop owners like Adam are visibly excited when they see a group of Chinese people approaching. ‘Come, we have heimu and xiangya,’ he says. He says the Chinese are generally interested in buying two things in Mozambique: heimu, which is a black wood, and xiangya, namely ivory.

He also offers rhino horns at $15,000 a kilogram, though he says he does not keep it in the marketplace because it is too expensive. He opens a big box filled with various ivory products and displays them openly. However, when some Chinese customers lift the ivory too high he asks them to put them down, in case the police notice and make trouble.

Dong, an employee of a Chinese national oil company who has been in Mozambique for almost four years, is browsing through the market with three colleagues. He is mostly interested in buying bracelets made of black wood, animal horns and ivory. After bargaining, he buys two ivory bracelets for about $50 and his colleague buys two as well. ‘We will need to take them apart and hide the pieces in the corners of our luggage. Then even if customs finds some we can still make them up into bracelets again in China,’ Dong advises his less-experienced colleague.

As Dong’s group walks away, a nearby shop owner reminds them to hide their ivory bracelets inside their pockets, because if the police see them they will ask for money to ‘solve the problem’. Policemen are patrolling the market all the time, but they seem more interested in asking foreigners for their passports and money than finding ivory.

Unlike the Saturday ‘ivory market’, the craft market on nearby Mao Tse Tung avenue opens every day. Chen, who has worked for a Maputo-based Chinese construction company for the past two years, is going back home in December and needs to stock up on souvenirs for friends and families. He buys two pairs of ivory chopsticks, and says even though they may be confiscated by customs he can afford the loss. ‘Sometimes they pass and these things are cheap enough to be taken away if we have bad luck,’ he says.

A colleague recently bought a large ivory sculpture and when it was found by customs officers in Mozambique he paid $300 to get it through. No one at customs in Beijing found it, Chen says. He has a good collection of ivory products, and believes they can be an investment. ‘When you have enough money, you display them in your house. When you need money, you can always sell them,’ he says.

Most of the Chinese buyers know where the ivory comes from, but don’t care about the slaughter of elephants. Kai, one of the buyers of ivory bracelets, sums up their feeling when he admits that he did not feel guilty about buying ivory products even though he knows how the sellers get it. However, there are some Chinese who refuse to buy into the market. ‘These items are art from killing,’ says Xu, a friend and colleague of Kai. But he indicates that there are few Chinese like him.

The Chinese embassy in Pretoria challenged this investigation in a letter published by the Mail & Guardian. Pan Peng, the embassy’s press counsellor, wrote: ‘The Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of wildlife and has promulgated laws and regulations in this concern, established a multi-sectoral joint law-enforcement mechanism, and taken various measures to protect wildlife and raise public awareness.’ As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1981, China has long been committed to co-operation with South Africa on wildlife protection, Peng said.

* Chinese journalist and recent Oxpeckers fellow Hongxiang Huang, along with other journalists who chose not to be named, travelled to smuggling hotspots across Southern Africa, including capital cities and the Zambezi border region where five Southern African countries intersect to investigate the Chinese connection. The investigation by the Oxpeckers center of investigative environmental journalists was supported by the Wits China-Africa reporting programme and the forum of African investigative reporters. Some names have not been divulged because of the sensitive nature of this investigation.

Article at the following link:

Connect the dots: infant mortality, graft and elephant poaching

 

A herd of elephants gather at a watering hole inside Hwange National Park, about 840 km (521 miles) outside Harare

Ed Stoddard

Reuters 7:47 a.m. CST, January 2, 2014

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – What do infant mortality and elephant poaching have in common? Plenty, according to conservation groups.

Researchers have for the first time made clear connections between elephant poaching in Africa, which has been surging to meet soaring ivory demand in Asia, and factors such as poverty, as shown by high rates of child deaths, and corruption.

These links have always been suspected but never pinned down with hard data.

The findings come in a report prepared for an African elephant summit in Botswana in December by groups including TRAFFIC, which tracks the global trade in wildlife products, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Areas where child mortality and poverty are worst also see higher levels of elephant poaching, but poor villagers typically do not benefit from the illicit ivory trade.

In this regard, the ivory trade – with its long and blood-stained history – is similar to other extractive industries in Africa, which have been exploited to meet demand elsewhere with few rewards for local people.

Demand for ivory – used for carvings and valued for millennia for its color and texture – has been rising sharply in newly affluent Asian countries, notably China, fuelling a new wave of elephant slaughter.

Following a decline in the 1990s, poaching of the world’s largest land mammal has risen dramatically and in 2012 an estimated 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites in Africa monitored by MIKE – the U.N.-backed program for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants.

Since 2010, elephant poaching levels in Africa have exceeded 5 percent of the total population – a tipping point because killings are now outpacing the animals’ birth rate.

In a related trend, the killing of rhinos for their horns – used in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China – has also soared, notably in South Africa, home to the vast majority of the animals.

According to South African government statistics, as of December 19, a record 946 rhinos had been poached in the country in 2013, compared to 668 in all of 2012.

POVERTY PROXY

The report found a striking link between infant mortality rates – measured by the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 10,000 live births – and the illegal killing of elephants.

“Human infant mortality, which is interpreted as a proxy for poverty, is the single strongest site-level correlate … with sites suffering from higher levels of poverty experiencing higher levels of elephant poaching,” the report said.

The relationship between poverty and poaching – in Africa and elsewhere – has long been assumed because wildlife is a source of food or money for impoverished rural dwellers.

But links between measurements of poverty and living standards, such as infant mortality, and the illicit killing of elephants, have not been made before with the kind of clarity that researchers have found in the data over the past two years.

Julian Blanc, a co-author of the study and acting coordinator for MIKE, told Reuters infant mortality was the best barometer for poverty because data for it, based on work by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, exists at local levels.

It can therefore be linked to localized incidents of elephant poaching, making it far more useful than other measurements such as per capita GDP, which can give a skewed picture, especially in countries with high levels of inequality.

Ziama in Guinea, Niassa in Mozambique, and Bangassou in Central African Republic were the three areas covered in the report with the highest rates of infant mortality, ranging from 1,240 to almost 1,400 deaths per 10,000 live births.

All three areas also had extremely high levels of elephant poaching. In the case of Ziama, its elephant population is small but has been reduced by over half in the past few years.

The next four areas in the infant mortality rankings were all found in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report also found, using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, that at the national level “high poaching levels are more prevalent in countries where governance is weaker, and vice versa”.

Poverty and governance are the “enabling” factors for poaching, with consumer demand the other key link in the chain.

Poor governance and high poverty levels overlap between countries such as Congo and Central African Republic, which are also areas where local people see little value in elephant populations.

“In many parts of Africa people living with elephants derive no benefits from that coexistence and only bear costs in terms of crop damage, injury or death,” Blanc said in a telephone interview from his Nairobi base.

TROPICAL, LAND-LOCKED

Many of these countries – such as Central African Republic – also suffer from the development curses of having tropical climates, which impose the heavy disease burden seen in their infant mortality rates, and being landlocked, which imposes economic costs.

Still, that does not mean that wildlife in such places could not be utilized in a way that might bring economic benefits. Heavily forested and tropical Gabon, for example, is building a wildlife tourist industry aimed at the more adventurous.

But elsewhere in central Africa, elephants, a natural resource that could lift rural economies in the form of eco-tourism, or even a regulated ivory trade down the road, are being exterminated, depriving future generations of potential income.

Such poverty traps serve as a sobering reminder, against the backdrop of the “Africa Rising” narrative, that much of the world’s poorest continent is still being excluded from the region’s dynamic economic growth and investment story.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

The original article can be found in this article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-africa-investment-20140102,0,6592799.story

 

Ivory smugglers sentenced in Vietnam (Mozambique ivory)

Justin King
Dec 13, 2013

Ho Chi Minh City – A Vietnamese court sentenced two men to three years in prison for their role in smuggling ivory weighing 2,400 kilograms into the nation from Singapore. The tusks originated in Mozambique. The trial lasted one day.
The two men were convicted of illegally transporting goods over the border, under Vietnam’s general smuggling provision. The charges stem from a June shipment that was declared as salt cowhide.
Due to the declared contents of the shipment, it was held in animal quarantine. The shipment passed inspection, however the smugglers believed the delay was a trap and did not proceed with their plan and continue customs procedures. Instead, the smugglers said the seller in Singapore was going to sell it to another client. This failure to continue with the customs process led to an inspection of the contents.
Upon inspection, agents found 158 pieces of ivory tusks. The two men confessed.
Some activists groups have claimed the sentence too lenient. However, Human Rights Watch describes Vietnamese prison conditions on their website
Prison conditions are harsh and even life threatening. During pretrial detention-which can last more than a year-prisoners are often placed in solitary confinement in dark, cramped, unsanitary cells, with no bedding or mosquito nets. Convicted prisoners must perform hard labor, sometimes under hazardous conditions.
These conditions led to a riot at Xuan Loc jail in July.
International seizures of poached Ivory are at the highest levels in 25 years, with more than 40 tonnes being seized so far this year. The price for the substance remains relatively stable at $770 -$1200 per kilogram, making the shipment worth more than $2 million (US).

The Chinese ivory-smugglers in Africa

Who are the Chinese smuggling ivory out of Africa and how are they doing it? Huang Hongxiang went to Mozambique to investigate

Dong has been sent to Mozambique by his employer, a Chinese communications company. At a busy weekly market he used his phone to record a message of congratulations for a relative back home who is getting married before buying several ivory bracelets: “Look, this is the biggest ivory market in Maputo, I’ll find some good stuff to bring you.”

The traders sell a range of crafts – paintings, carvings, cabinets, stone jewellery. But for Chinese shoppers, it’s just “the ivory market”.

“What are you looking for? Ivory? Ebony? We’ve got it, cheap!” The sellers are particularly happy to see Chinese customers, and have learned the Chinese words needed to attract them. Cardboard boxes by their stalls are full of ivory products, only to be shown to Chinese shoppers. Ebony, a precious and slow-growing hardwood, is another popular choice with the Chinese.

Li, an employee of a Chinese oil company, has lived here for two years. He explains to newly-arrived colleagues how to get ivory bead bracelets back home. “Cut the string and hide the beads in your luggage, then restring it when you get back – it’s still the same bracelet.”

Chen, a construction company employee, has more advice: “Just don’t take more than a kilogram or two at once. You won’t have any trouble leaving here, and if it’s found at customs in China you just have to hand it over – it’s cheap to buy here anyway.” He’s been working here for a year and visits the market every week, choosing the best products. He showed me his collection – bracelets, chopsticks, stamps.

The growth in the illegal trade in ivory and the involvement of Chinese citizens is a cause of major concern both internationally and in China. In late October, customs officers in Xiamen, a city in south east China, seized a 12 tonne shipment of ivory worth 600 million yuan – the biggest ivory bust in Chinese history. Days later, 1.8 tonnes of ivory were found in the Tanzanian home of a Chinese man.

The most common way in which Chinese get involved in the ivory trade in Africa is as souvenir hunters, such as Dong, Li and Chen. Employees sent here by their companies, migrants running small shops – many of them take small quantities of ivory on trips home. Ivory is cheap here – a bracelet might cost the equivalent of four or five hundred yuan, but sell for up to 10,000 yuan on the black market in China. In Asia, a kilogram of ivory could cost up to US$3,000, but hunters in impoverished areas of Africa will sell it for about 300 yuan, and it still won’t be too expensive by the time it’s reached Beijing.

It’s not just the huge profits that attract customers – they also know the risks are low. “In theory legitimate ivory products can be sold locally, they just can’t be exported,” said Baodai, an official at Quirimbas National Park in the north of the country.

Mozambique’s laws on ivory are weak, and the situation is worsened by rampant corruption. Legally each type of animal has a value – for example, an elephant is worth about US$4 million. Poachers who are caught have to pay that value in compensation, but are freed in order to get the money and are only jailed if they can’t pay. And in reality poachers are rarely caught and those that are slip through the net. Meanwhile, corruption makes a mockery of the rules on sale and export of ivory.

Zhu works at the airport: “Give the customs people 2,000 metical (400 yuan) and they won’t check your luggage.” As long as you’re happy to spend a little on bribes at the airport, he said, there’s no need to worry.

The souvenir hunters might only smuggle a little each, but the huge numbers of Chinese people travelling to Africa make for a huge market. In addition, there is another another class of smugglers altogether.

The north of Mozambique is a major centre for elephant poaching. The region’s main port, Pemba, is home to many Chinese businessmen, mostly in the timber trade – shipping containers of local wood back home to China. According to an Environmental Investigation Agency study in 2011, many of the Chinese timber firms are involved in smuggling – they do not fell timber themselves, but buy it cheaply from locals, asking no questions about whether or not it has been cut legally, then ship it back home for sale. They exist in a grey zone, taking advantages of regulatory and customs loopholes – and often they are involved in other shady businesses.

In 2011, 126 tusks were found in a container of timber belonging to a Chinese company, Tianhe, along with one rhino horn and some pangolin scales. The firm was ordered to pay its local partner MITI US$3.5m, and was closed in August this year.

Dewa, a MITI official, insisted in the local media that his company had nothing to do with their Chinese partner’s ivory smuggling. He expressed anger: “We might not have any evidence, but we know it’s not just the one company doing this.

The Chinese are all at it!” Most of the port’s Chinese traders exist in a grey area and know only too well how to work within a corrupt government.

When I paid an undercover visit to one local Chinese timber firm I saw two uniformed Mozambicans watching Chinese soap operas on the office television.

“One is a customs officer, the other’s with the police. In theory they’re here to inspect the containers as we load them, but they just come for the bribes and to watch television,” explained a company employee, smiling.

“Tianhe got caught as they failed to pay enough bribes – that was a false economy,” said Zhou, manager of another large Chinese timber firm. He claimed his company is the only clean Chinese firm locally, but checking online found it was involved in multiple cases of timber smuggling. The local media referred to the firm as a repeat offender. Higher up the food chain there is a small number of more powerful smugglers. In Kenya an official with a Chinese firm told me that “a lot of ivory is moved via ‘diplomatic channels’, not by us ordinary folk.”

He was referring to particular corrupt government officials who take advantage of their diplomatic flights to avoid customs and smuggle ivory. These are all high-ranking figures, and so it is rare for there to be any arrests.

In June 2013, Xinhua’s English edition reported that a Chinese diplomat and a Chinese military officer had been detained in Zambia on suspicion of smuggling 27 kilograms of ivory worth US$140,000. But there were no details on who these people actually were.

When I asked the Chinese embassy in Mozambique about this, the response was that “the vast majority of Chinese citizens obey Mozambique’s laws, but it is not impossible that certain individuals trade in illegal ivory. The embassy will continue its education efforts.”

The original article can be found in this link: http://www.chinadialogue.org.cn/article/show/single/en/6540-The-Chinese-ivory-smugglers-in-Africa

Ivory poaching in Mozambique

by Hongxiang Huang and Estacio Valoi

28 November, 2013

Conservationists say that blood money from ivory trafficking was used to fuel tensions in the run-up to elections in Mozambique. Municipal elections were held in late November 2013; and presidential, parliamentary and regional assembly elections will be held on October 15 next year. Violent flare-ups between the ruling party Frelimo and the opposition Renamo in recent months have led to fears that the civil war which ravaged Mozambique from 1975 to 1992 may be rekindled.

Conservationists in northern Mozambique, where an average of three to four elephants are being poached a day, have implicated local authorities in the killing spree. Rangers say the weapons used include helicopters and heavy-calibre guns normally used by military forces. In Niassa National Reserve, where elephant numbers have dropped from more than 20,000 in 2009 to about 9,000 earlier this year, Frelimo has been accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales to fund its 10th anniversary congress in nearby Pemba last year.

Rangers involved in anti-poaching patrols in Niassa, who did not want to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said they had noticed the use of heavy artillery and helicopters in poaching activities in the lead-up to the Frelimo conference in September 2012. The rangers said they had been excluded from an area near the party’s district headquarters in Mecula, near the Niassa reserve, where the carcasses of more than 50 elephants had been stacked. Their efforts to report the slaughter to police officials and border guards were fruitless.

A report on poaching in neighbouring Quirimbas National Park in Cabo Delgado province by the Mozambican tourism ministry, in late 2011, noted that poachers were using “sophisticated weapons” and helicopters. A private tourism operator in the national park, Jabobs von Landsberg, said at least 89 elephants had been poached in his 35,000ha concession area of the 750,000ha national park in the past 18 months. Yet before 2009 when the poaching started to take off, elephant numbers in his tourism concession had steadily increased from the end of the civil war to about 150.

António Frangoulis, a criminologist at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo and a former Frelimo luminary, said he had received reports from various sources claiming that local authorities were conniving in the poaching and that military weapons were being used. “We are talking about weapons normally used by the police and military forces,” he said. “We are talking about the involvement of official authorities.” Frangoulis was a member of parliament and head of the Mozambican police investigative division until he was sacked in 2009 for criticising Frelimo.

Alastair Nelson, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Mozambique, said the proceeds from ivory, which is smuggled via the nearby port of Pemba or across the border into Tanzania, were fuelling corruption in northern Mozambique. Many of the armed skirmishes between Frelimo and Renamo in recent months have occurred in the northern regions of the country. “Ivory poaching and trafficking fuels petty corruption, especially in sensitive border areas,” Nelson said. “It’s a governance issue. Tackling the petty corruption will improve border security, export control, customs receipts, and help to release the local population from having to live with corruption.”

Renamo, which has pulled out of the elections and been on the run since the army attacked its military base in early July, has not been directly linked to ivory smuggling.

Frelimo party spokesman Damiao Jose and presidential spokesman Edson Macuacua said they were too busy organising the November municipal elections to discuss the poaching allegations.

How Rhino Horns (and Ivory) end up in Asian Jewellery shops

Karl Amman, The Star
August 2, 2013

So your latest model Ferrari is parked in a prominent spot outside the top five-star hotel in the capital. You are meeting friends for a drink and since it is pleasantly warm you wear a short sleeve shirt so there is no way they can miss the golden Rolex on your left wrist – they will know it is the real thing. But what about your right arm? Maybe a rhino horn bangle worth the same as the wrist watch (about U$ 15 000) would make for a good conversation piece, not yet on the must have list of most of your friends.

The feeling when travelling through the key urban centers of Vietnam and China is that wealth is only really accepted when it can be presented in a conspicuous way. Status symbols and lifestyle products are what it is all about when competing for social status, and rhino horn jewelry and ivory have become part of this demand characteristic.

We have now visited a household which also serves as a store and workshop on three different occasions. It is about an hours drive from the Hanoi City Center. On all three occasions we saw and documented with hidden camera large amounts of raw and semi worked ivory including end product souvenir and jewelry items as well as rhino horn products. Even on our first visit, in 2011, we were offered a rhino horn prayer bead bracelet. We watched the demonstration by the owner shining a torch light through one of the beads and explaining how we could ensure it was the genuine article. Pushing open a door in the basement of the house we entered a bedroom with a wide range of cut up ivory pieces in cardboard boxes. Some of the ivory was already worked into finished bracelets.  Since we had arrived during a local holiday the workshop upstairs was closed, however we managed to film a group of Chinese tourists being brought in by their tour guide buying a number of chop stick sets as well as bracelets. All items were carefully measured with calipers which together with a digital scale were part of the paraphernalia used in each such sales transaction. When we asked to see some raw rhino horn an Iphone containing images of various horns was pushed into our hands.

On our second visit to the shop earlier this year the story was pretty much the same. This time there were Chinese clients buying the bottom half of a very large rhino horn. They gave their instructions on how to cut it, marking it first with pencil lines which were then followed with a band saw. They explained that these cuts would result in the highest yield of bangles. The cut out inner core would be worked into the beads which would then be shaped into prayer bracelets.

We asked where the horn came from and were told Mozambique (the chance being high that it was a Kruger rhino) via Kenya. This was not very surprising with Mozambique having lost its last rhino earlier in the year and this trade route being well established. We were also told which towns in China the shop owners could deliver to, so Chinese buyers did not have the risk of taking the illegal items across an international border. The carvers also pointed out the best land border where it would be easy to cross back into China with their prohibited merchandise. Since as a westerner there would be less of a risk for me at the border, I actually went as far as testing the water and offered to take some bracelets on to our next destination in China. They declined, pointing out that they had it all under control.

On this visit we also managed to go upstairs to a workshop where they were filing away at raw ivory pieces turning them into bracelets. We were told that the same machinery would be used to work the rhino horn pieces.

Back downstairs we ended up in the main sales and display room again, looking at various pieces of worked ivory, chop sticks and bangles. There were a few cardboard boxes half open and when I reached in I pulled out some cylindrical objects painted dark brown with a new year’s wish written on the side in Vietnamese.

The objects were too heavy to be wood and when I asked, it was explained to me that it was ivory disguised as wood to transport it without any problems. Not surprisingly a few months later two Vietnamese travelers were arrested at Jomo Kenyatta airport with exactly these kinds of ‘wooden’ souvenir items. The story of the minimal sentences they received was well documented in the Kenyan press. I was now convinced the owners of this home and shop were indeed key players in the rhino horn and ivory trade business, not just middlemen and women, but had their own couriers importing for them.

I sent back a local contact with a hidden camera and he encountered yet another group of Chinese tourists having been taken to the shop by their guide, negotiating and buying various items. There was a large chunk of rhino horn with tell tale pieces cut out of it. My local investigator asked if this was the same horn as last time: “No, No. We go through several horns a week and we can no longer keep up with the demand for bangles selling hundreds of them at about U$ 10-15 000 a pop – depending on weight”. All these discussions were recorded and transcribed and the price remained constant whichever rhino horn items were being discussed. U$ 45 000 per kg was the basis for all calculations. Ivory was U$ 1200 per kg. Our man was told that some Chinese buyers purchase up to ten of these bracelets in one go and then resell them back home. He also learnt that the shop owner has a sister who operates a very similar establishment 100 meters further down the same road.

Considering that rhino horn in a neighbouring village was US 20 000 per kg some three years ago, clearly there was and is considerable potential to make a nice profit from an appreciating asset. The more rhinos that get poached the rarer the commodity becomes, and the higher the price will go. Pretty much a no lose scenario for the investor and a no win scenario for the rhino.

We have already established that – at the retail level – approximately 90% of the small pieces of rhino horn sold in the traditional Chinese medicine shops are fake. In Guangzhou, China we filmed in a shop which had on display more rhino horns than are removed from Africa in a whole year. All of them were fake but advertised as the real thing. Combine these facts with this latest development and we have a scenario where all economic theories regarding the demand and supply of rhino horn go out of the window. If 90% of the retail market is already fake then the overall demand is a multiple of the horns coming out of Africa. How will this affect the now heated discussions around legalizing the trade? Where might demand level out and how many horns would it take to stabilize prices or bring them down? These new fashion accessories which seem to have come up almost overnight appear to have become a major source of demand nobody thought of a year or two ago. As further evidence of this diversifying market in rhino horn we also found horn tip signature seals just like the ivory Hankos in Japan. Ivory Hankos historically represented a major demand source for raw ivory and were often cut to the right dimensions at source – in Africa – before being transported to Japan. While what we saw was fake but again but being sold as the real thing. The question is what will come next? The drinking cups and tea sets are already on display in some places. Where and when will it stop?

It seems extinction is the answer, as is happening fast with the tiger for which similar demand characteristics are in place. From the tooth or claw set in gold hanging on a yuppies neck to the tiger glue cake which is very popular as TCM throughout Vietnam and finally the pelt making for a trophy which one does not have to hide.

I guess the only hope left is in law enforcement at the demand end. In Africa dozens of poachers are already killed annually in protecting rhinos and elephants and behind each dead poacher a dozen new and eager candidates seem to line up. This is unlikely to change with prices still on the increase. On the Asian side current law enforcement efforts are mostly about lip service and window dressing. None of the players we interacted with seemed to be in any way worried about any enforcement official putting them in handcuffs. Clearly the buyers of these rhino horn bangles will not want to hide them in a jewellery box.  They have to be worn or the status symbol aspect goes out the window. Showing off these items at the same time says:  I am above the law. It seems that showing off an ILLEGAL lifestyle product of this nature gives it even more of a prestige appeal.

With this demand characteristic where will all this end? Will the visits to Africa of a Chinese baseball star or a famous Chinese actress get through to the players spending U$ 15 000 on a rhino horn bracelet? Will there be enough time to change this very materialistic outlook through education? When should we start to demand that some real enforcement takes place?

I discussed this with an established Chinese conservationist during a meeting in South Africa. She pointed out that the Shatoush shawls from the protected Chiru antelopes had for some time been a status symbol among society players in the west and had contributed to the decline of the wild population.  I responded that probably few buyers in India or Nepal buying these shawls had any idea where exactly the wool came from and what the status was of the chiru antelope. I then went on to tell her that I remember reading a story in Vanity Fair of the US Fish and Wildlife Service actually raiding the homes of socialites to confiscate these shawls and take the owners to court for illegal import or possession. I suggested we have yet to see this happening to the ubër-wealthy consumer in China or Vietnam. Plus of course a few hundred wealthy individuals in the west wanting such a shawl in her closet did not exactly compare with the tens of thousands of newly wealthy individuals in China, all geared to showing off their new found wealth. Re-reading the 1999 Vanity Fair story it turned out that the key supplier was a Hong Kong based outfit shipping these goods for charity and society auctions in New York.

In the overall context though, she had a point. Creating awareness clearly needs to be a key priority. If an awareness campaign is not combined with serious enforcement measures on the ground however, the effects might be too slow to save our rhinos and elephants. Maybe raiding a few society homes and getting the story in the Chinese equivalent of Vanity Fair could be a major step in the right direction?

Imagine the scenario with our guy waiting at the bar for his friends to arrive, desperate to show off his new jewellery. It would be a major let down if instead of his friends arriving, he is surrounded by police officers. His new expensive rhino horn bracelet and golden Rolex are replaced with the metallic handcuffs as he’s arrested and dragged out of the 5-star hotel, past his Ferrari and eventually his mug shot is exposed to other socialites in the Chinese equivalent of Vanity Fair. At least we can go on dreaming…

The documented evidence of our visits to this workshop and sales outlet outside Hanoi has now gone to various international enforcement agencies. Let’s see what happens.

More dreaming would be my guess…….

Mozambique: Smugglers Ordered to Compensate Mozambican

Mozambique News Agency
2 August 2013

Maputo — A court in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado has ordered a Chinese company to pay 3.5 million US dollars to its Mozambican partners, because of the damages they suffered due to the Chinese involvement in smuggling ivory, rhino horns, pangolin shells, artwork made from ivory, and even elephant excrement, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the independent weekly “Savana”.

The case dates back to January 2011, when the Chinese company, Mozambique Tienhe Trading Development Ltd, was found to have included wildlife products in a rented container that ought to have been full of nothing but timber.

The discovery was part of a swoop on containers carried by the Antigua registered ship “Kota Mawar” in the northern Mozambican port of Pemba.

There were 121 20 foot containers on board, carrying timber owned by several Chinese companies.

89 of the containers were carrying goods belonging to the company Mofid, 30 to Tienhe, 20 to Pacif, 15 to Sinlian, and seven to Alphaben.

The “Kota Mawar” had received the go-ahead from customs and from the provincial agriculture services to depart for China when officials from the defence and security forces received a tip-off that some of the containers were carrying illicit goods.

So the containers were unloaded and checked. In a container belonging to the company Miti, 126 elephant tusks and one rhino horn were discovered, as well as unspecified amounts of elephant dung and pangolin shells. The pangolin’s protective armour consists of large scales which, like rhino horns, and human fingernails, are made of keratin.

The managing partner of Miti, Mohamed Faruk Jamal, declared that his company had nothing to do with the smuggling, and had been betrayed by its Chinese partner, Tienhe. Jamal said that Miti authorised Tienhe to use its containers to transport timber, and not forbidden wildlife products.

Miti demanded compensation of five million dollars from Tienhe because of the damage done to its good name. Jamal said that Miti had become associated with ivory smuggling, when in reality the prohibited goods were placed in the container without its knowledge.

He said that the suspicion that Miti was involved in smuggling had led several of its partners to cancel business deals, causing serious financial losses for Miti.

Judge Luis Khavinha, of the Cabo Delgado Provincial Court, found in favour of Miti, but scaled back the amount Tienhe must pay Miti from five to 3.5 million dollars.

Tienhe must also pay all the legal costs of the case.

But it is not clear whether Miti will ever see any of this money. According to “Savana”, the Tienhe representative, Qiuhua Yan, has left the country, taking with him some of the company’s assets.

Meanwhile, the police in Nampula province announced on Thursday the arrest of a Congolese citizen who was in possession of six elephant tusks.

According to a report on Radio Mozambique the man was arrested on a minibus that was travelling from Montepuez, in Cabo Delgado, to Nampula city. The search of the vehicle was part of a joint operation between the police and the customs service.

According to the Nampula provincial police spokesperson, Miguel Bartolomeu, the Congolese is a man who has applied for political asylum, and is currently living in the Marratane Refugee Centre in Nampula. He has refused to provide any information about the origin or destination of the ivory.