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Ivory trade: A security as well as an environmental concern

Voice of Russia

February 3, 2014
Top level government representatives from 50 countries will gather this month to apply pressure on China to clamp down on ivory consumption within its borders. A growing Chinese middle class has stoked demand for the luxury material, leading to a killing spree in Africa. But there is also a deeper security concern – African militia and criminal groups sell the ivory for cash, which they use to buy weapons. Natasha Moriarty investigates.

The summit aims to bring together top-level government representatives from 50 countries and for the first time it is hoped one of China’s vice premiers will attend.

Prince William is expected to make a speech at the conference, which will be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague. US Secretary of StateJohn Kerry will also be present, along with the leaders of several African countries.

Organisers hope that Chinese media icons Jackie Chan – the actor – and Yao Ming – the 7ft 6in former basketball star – will attend, to ensure the conference receives widespread coverage in China.

Andrew Leun, an independent expert on China, says:

“There’s an important role to be played by media icons like Jackie Chan .. the Chinese want to stand tall in the world not just because of the growth of the economy but because they embrace world values … nationalism and pride will play a big role in stamping out the ivory trade.”

China drives ivory trade

The explosive growth of China’s emerging middle class has brought with it sweeping economic change and social transformation – and a rapacious appetite for ivory.

China is responsible for over 70 percent of global demand for illegal ivory, and the Chinese are also the world’s leading consumers of tiger bone soup and rhino horn cures.

Without the demand from China, conservationists say the illegal ivory trade would all but dry up.

The Chinese have coveted ivory for centuries. Hand-carved ivory objects are proudly displayed in Chinese homes to symbolise wealth and status.

But now, unprecedented numbers are able to afford the precious material.

China’s economic boom has created a vast upper-middle class, and this new consumer group has caused the price of ivory to triple on the streets of Beijing.

Slaughter in Africa

Tens of thousands of African elephants are now being slaughtered to meet the demand. Last year, poaching in Africa was at its highest level since an international ban on ivory was applied in 1989.

Conservationists say the frenzy of killing now threatens the future survival of elephants.

Though much of the ivory traded is illegal, loopholes in trade regulations allow the sale of ivory in some circumstances. Countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe – where elephant populations are stable – are allowed to sell trophy licences that allow hunters to bring ivory across borders. Ivory obtained before the international ban is also legal – which provides an effective smokescreen for criminal trade.

Will Travers of Born Free says:

“China is the biggest market because in 2008 the international community decided it was acceptable to sell some stockpiled ivory to China and Japan to satisfy demand … what it did was it stimulated demand…”

But global leaders are not motivated by concern for elephants and rhinos alone. They smell danger.

Links with armed groups

The underground ivory trade is increasingly militarised. Militia groups sell ivory, and use this cash to buy weapons.

Organized crime syndicates link up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa all the way to China.

Links have been established with Africa’s most notorious armed groups, al-Shabaab –the al-Qaeda cell group involved in the recent Westgate Mall siege in Nairobi – and central Africa’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

Last week, the UN Security Council made moves to impose international sanctions and freeze the assets of illegal wildlife traffickers.

We spoke to Charlie Mayhew, CEO of conservation group Tusk Trust, about the security concerns.

Conference focus

The London conference will focus on four objectives: strengthening law enforcement; reducing demand; international collaboration; and helping Africa communities to find sources of income linked to protecting the animals rather than killing them. Higher penalties for poaching and  smuggling will be a key topic of discussion.

All 38 African countries with elephants have agreed that their highest priority is to protect their elephants.

Conservationists hope the conference will herald an era when concern for animal welfare – rather than expensive trinkets – will be the hottest status symbol in China.

Man Smuggled Ivory, Rhino Horns From U.S. to China

NBC 10 Philadelphia
Dec 19, 2013

Guilty plea in NJ to ivory, rhino horn smuggling

A Chinese national acknowledged Thursday that he was the mastermind of an international smuggling operation that illegally transported more than $4 million in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory from the U.S. to China over the last several years.

Zhifei Li, 29, of Shandong, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark to 11 counts including conspiracy, smuggling, illegal wildlife trafficking and making fake documents. Each of seven smuggling counts carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Li’s sentencing is scheduled for April.

“Rhino horn can sell for more than gold and is just as rare, but rhino horn and elephant ivory are more than mere commodities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Dreher said in a statement. “Each illegally traded horn or tusk represents a dead animal, poaching, bribery, smuggling and organized crime.”

All species of the rhinoceros are protected under U.S. and international law, and international trade in rhino horns and elephant ivory has been regulated since the mid-1970s. Elephant herds in Africa have been critically depleted over the years by ivory hunters.

According to court documents, Li paid a Long Island City antiques dealer for horns that had been acquired by two other people based in northern New Jersey and Miami and Ormond Beach, Fla. One of the sources for the horns was a wildlife auction business in Missouri. The horns were allegedly shipped to Hong Kong and then mainland China wrapped in duct tape and hidden in porcelain vases.

Federal investigators began focusing on Li two years ago, after a confidential informant sold two raw rhino horns to a middleman at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. The horns, which had been supplied by the government, were then sold to the Long Island City antiques dealer.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office estimated the total value of the horns, plus other smuggled objects made from the horns and from illegally obtained elephant ivory, was about $4.5 million.

The Long Island dealer, Qiang Wang, was sentenced to 37 months in prison two weeks ago in New York.

US, China team up for wildlife

By DENG XIANLAI, China Daily
November 7, 2013

The US and China, the world’s two largest markets for wildlife products, are joining efforts to combat wildlife trafficking — one of the most lucrative forms of transnational organized crime — which generates an estimated $7 billion to 10 billion annually.

While the US portrays itself as a leader in stopping the killing of endangered species worldwide, it also recognizes that this is a global issue that calls for international partnerships, according to US officials.

“I think we have good discussions going on with China and we are looking forward to continuing them,” Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, said during a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday. “We are also looking forward to really thinking about the steps we can take that will make a difference.”

On the same day in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was questioned at a news briefing about the three Chinese citizens arrested in Tanzania who had a considerable amount of ivory stock-piled in their residence. Hong said China firmly opposes ivory smuggling and will continue to work with the international community to protect wildlife.

According to media reports, a total of 706 elephant tusks weighing nearly two tons were found last Saturday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the house of three Chinese garlic traders. The case follows a recent report by Agence France-Presse that a Chinese man was arrested in October at Zimbabwe’s main airport trying to smuggle ivory out of the country

China, among other Asian countries, has deep cultural ties to ivory, a commodity that is associated with status and prosperity and is often carved into delicate works of artistic ornamentation.

China’s General Administration of Customs told the media recently that it cleared up an ivory smuggling case in which 2,154 elephant tusks weighing 8 tons were confiscated. The case was the biggest of its kind ever in China.

One of the hottest destinations for smuggled wildlife body parts is Xiaman, a city in Southeast China’s Fujian province which is historically the ancestral home of many overseas Chinese doing business in Southeast Asia, an area where ivory trafficking is rampant. According to statistics from Xiamen Customs, two ivory smuggling gangs were caught in the past two years, with 13 tons of elephant tusks and ivory products worth nearly $100 million seized.

“The Chinese government firmly opposes elephant poaching and ivory smuggling and has taken appropriate measures, including new laws, integrated law enforcement and international cooperation,” Hong said.

Facing a worldwide trafficking of endangered species that is becoming very sophisticated, highly organized and syndicated, China has joined the international community to strengthen cooperation.

At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Bangkok, Thailand this March, China accepted a joint proposal offered by the US on Asian turtle conservation, which marked the first ever proposal of its kind between the two countries.

“I think that reflects a growing recognition that the US and China as two leading economic powers in the world need to work together if we are going to achieve conservation for [endangered] species,” said Dan Ashe, director of US Fish and Wildlife Services, who also attended the news briefing in Washington.

In Washington in July, US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats and Zhao Shucong, head of the Chinese State Forestry Administration, met to discuss illegal wildlife trafficking and review the two countries’ efforts to combat it.

“In recognition of the economic and security consequences of the burgeoning illicit trade networks, the two nations committed to pursue more effective mechanisms for cooperation,” the State Department announced.

“The US is working in conjunction with its foreign partners — like China, Thailand, Vietnam, and countries where people are seeing this large and growing demand for these species — to reduce the demand for the illicit wildlife products,” said Ashe.

Acknowledging that bilaterally the two countries had “talked quite a bit”, Jones mentioned that the US also had a memorandum of understanding with China on the logging issue, which was “often linked to wildlife trafficking because…you are really talking about the habitat where you find these wonderful animals”.

U.S. plans to destroy 6 tons of seized illegal ivory

By Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News

Six tons of illegal ivory that has been seized by the U.S. government will be destroyed in an effort to discourage sales of accessories and art made from elephant tusks, the U.S. Department of Interior said Monday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to crush six tons of ivory that the U.S. government has confiscated since commercial ivory was banned in 1989, announced Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an increased demand for ivory jewelry, decorations and trinkets has provoked poachers to kill about 30,000 African elephants each year.

Members of WWF and IFAW hope that destroying the seized ivory will relay a message to those who buy and sell ivory in the U.S.

“By crushing this ivory stockpile, the U.S. government is sending a signal. If we’re going to solve this crisis we have to crush the demand, driven by organized crime syndicates who are robbing the world of elephants,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF.

IFAW spokeswoman Cynthia Carson said that she believes the incentive will remind people that ivory comes from elephants, saying that many people separate the product from “dead elephants” in their minds.

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said that the U.S. has to be “part of the solution” in combating elephant poaching since American buyers are such a big part of the problem. “Much of the world’s trade in wild animal and plant species — both legal and illegal — is driven by U.S. consumers or passes through our ports on the way to other nations,” he said.

WWF illegal wildlife trade expert, Crawford Allan, said, “seizures of illegal wildlife products happen at ports all across the U.S. — from Manhattan to Louisville to Denver.”

Carson said that while most of the ivory is apprehended from black market smugglers, some is also taken from tourists returning to the U.S.

Allan added that Ivory was even being sold in disguise on the e-commerce website Etsy, until measures were recently implemented to halt the illegal sales.

“The key message of this crush is that ivory is not a legitimate consumer product — it should only belong to elephants,” Carson said.

Bonello said that the massive haul of ivory will be crushed starting October 8, in Denver, Colorado. She said it was still “to be determined” what would happen with the pulverized remains.

This article is from the following  link:http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/09/20408100-us-plans-to-destroy-6-tons-of-seized-illegal-ivory?lite

Kenya Airways backs Anti-poaching Campaign

PRESS RELEASE

Kenya Airways backs Anti-poaching Campaign

NAIROBI JULY 24, 2013 – Kenya Airways has joined the ‘Hands Off Our Elephants’ campaign that aims at ending elephants poaching and ivory trafficking through Kenya, as well as eliminating demand for the commodity around the world.

The campaign, which is spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has been put together by WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation charity, to create awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue within Kenya, across Africa and around the world

Kenya Airways’ Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Titus Naikuni, said that conservation of elephants and other wildlife, is the responsibility of all Kenyan individuals, companies and government agencies.

“Elephants are part of our environment; therefore poaching them harms our country and national heritage. Mother Nature is very unforgiving when we change the balance in the environment. This is the reason we decided to get involved. As Kenya Airways, we do not condone poaching or delivery of poached ivory on our flights, and this message has been passed to our staff and passengers. Any of our staff found involved or abetting poaching will face the consequences,” Dr Naikuni added during a press briefing held in Nairobi.

Speaking during the briefing, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, said that the government is stepping up anti-poaching efforts by deploying modern technology and modernization of the Kenya Wildlife Service; in addition to establishing a Canine Unit to detect movements of illegal ivory at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airports in Mombasa.

“The government has also directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes, and revised penalties to higher fines of over Ksh1 million and sentences of over 5 years. Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, these penalties and sentences will be enhanced to make them punitive and discourage poaching and ivory traffickers,” Prof Wakhungu added.

The director general of the Vision 2030 delivery board, Mugo Kibati, said that elephants are a major factor in the success of the tourism industry, which is one of the major sectors in the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

“In our Medium Term Plan, we have set out to grow tourist numbers from the current 2 million to 3 million by the year 2017. However, this will not happen if our elephants disappear,” Mr Kibati told the press briefing.

In recent days, there has been a surge in cases of poaching, posing a threat to elephants. According to statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010.

In addition to this, the country has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days. KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.

The demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand. Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa’s elephants.

The CEO of Wildlife Direct, Dr Paula Kahumbu, lauded the government for welcoming the initiative which brings Kenyans together to save the country’s heritage.

“Kenya traditionally has been at the frontline in combating elephant poaching but we have lost that ground in recent years. It is essential that we work together and restore our leadership position in the world to ensuring that we protect our endangered species, and a global heritage. While we crack down on wildlife crime in Kenya, we also need the help of governments of Africa, Thailand, China and US whom we are asking to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory. We will also appeal to the hearts of anyone buying ivory in these countries as they are contributing to the slaughter of African elephants,” Dr Kahumbu added.

In February, Kenya Airways signed a deal with Born Free Foundation, an international charity, to contribute towards anti-poaching campaigns and conservation of wildlife conservation in Africa, and partner to raise funds for such initiatives.