Tag Archives: WCS

Vietnam in two minds about destructing wildlife contraband

March 31, 2014

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Vietnamese authorities now have a total of 27 tons of elephant tusks and hundreds of kilograms of rhino horn which were confiscated from wildlife traffickers.

In response to this information, Assoc. Prof. Dr Pham Van Luc, chairman of the Scientific Council of the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, said the museum is currently keeping large quantities of ivory tusks, rhino horns, tortoise scales, and many animal parts of precious and rare species.

Of these items, only a small quantity is on display, while the rest are carefully preserved in warehouses, Dr. Luc said.

As a rule, concerned agencies must destroy such products to emphasize their disapproval of wildlife trafficking.

However, given that the total material value of these items is very high, local competent bodies are considering how to handle them properly, Dr. Luc said.

The council has come up with the idea that such items could be processed to make souvenirs, but such an act would violate international conventions as well as Vietnamese regulations pertaining to the conservation and protection of wildlife, Dr. Luc added.

Regarding this matter, on March 24, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development suggested that ivory tusks, rhino horns, and tiger bones should be destroyed in accordance with Vietnam’s ban on the trade in wildlife.

“We hope a meeting will be held so that concerned agencies can discuss the issue and reach a final decision on how to handle the seized items,” he said, following the ministry’s suggestion.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Dang Huy Huynh, chairman of the Vietnam Animal Association, said he has a special interest in whether ivory tusks and rhino horns should be destroyed or stored.

The destruction of such wildlife would be a waste because it is worth a lot of money, which could be used to promote the conservation of wildlife, said Dr. Huynh.

“But it is our association’s view to support the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s suggestion to destroy illegal goods,” Dr. Huynh added.

Last month, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a directive, ordering a fierce combat against trafficking in rare and endangered animals or their parts to recover the country’s poor reputation regarding the protection of its wildlife.

The directive was made following the recent discovery of trafficking in endangered and rare wild animals in Vietnam, including rhino horn, African elephant tusks, and tigers.

The premier asked concerned agencies to conduct more patrols and inspections in border areas, international airports, and ports to help detect and prevent wildlife trafficking.

China reaffirms pledge to fight illegal ivory trade

By ABDUEL ELINAZA, Tanzania Daily News
March 02, 2014

China has said some western media reports implicating the country in the illegal ivory trade are “misleading” intentionally and are targeting to derail the long mutual friendship and cooperation between it and African states.

Beijing has also insisted that it strongly opposes the trade even as western media have been linking the country with illegal trade of ivory on the back of long term and historical relations with Africa.

The Director-General in the Department of Africa Affairs of Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mr Lu Shaye, said here yesterday some western media are reporting that the increase of illegal trade of ivory and some serious poaching in Africa (Tanzania) have increased due to huge demand from China.

“…Such information is misleading the whole world… why are they (western) doing this? They want to discourage the friendship and cooperation between China and Africa,” Mr Lu, who once served in Africa as China’s Senegal ambassador, said.

The Director was responding to ‘Sunday News’ questions regarding the China stance on illegal ivory trade and its assistance to Tanzania and Kenya in fighting against poaching.

“As a matter of fact China is not the only country that has ivory artifacts, a lot others have, for example Japan and other Southeast Asia countries have…it’s the same case with the UK.

“Prince William of UK Royal Family–as a wildlife conservationist (vows) to destroy all ivory artifacts of Royal Family to show his determination to fight against illegal trade of ivory,” the Director, known here as Mr Africa, said.

He said China is more than willing to work with Africa to fight against the poaching and illegal trade of ivories: “as a matter of fact China conducted joint operations with some Africa countries including Tanzania and Kenya…going forward China will step-up efforts by providing more assistance to Africa to fight against the trade”.

Recently UK’s Daily Mail reported that Tanzania government turned a blind eye to the fight against blood ivory trade which compelled the government to strongly blast the newspaper over its report saying it was one sided.

The Daily Mail article carried the headline: “Tanzania slaughters over 11,000 elephants a year for the bloody trade in tusks and its President turns a blind eye.

”China recently destroyed six tonnes of confiscated ivory, raising hopes for progress in the war against illicit trade in the commodity, most of which comes from Africa.

The ceremony, largely symbolic, was conducted in the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, according to news reports and a release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Along with burning its ivory stockpile, China has increased some of its enforcement against illegally trading ivory, with the arrest last month of five poachers in Jilin Province, a record, the WCS said in its release.

“We congratulate China’s government for showing the world that elephant poaching and illegal ivory consumption is unacceptable,” said WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper.

“We are hopeful that this gesture shows that we can win the war against poaching and that elephants will once again flourish.”

Ivory prices in Hong Kong stores rise 50-fold in a decade

Simon Parry, South China Morning Post
22 December, 2013

Buyers are ‘investing’ amid fears legal trade is driving market for poached and smuggled tusks

The price of elephant tusks in Hong Kong has shot up by more than fiftyfold in the past decade, raising concerns that the legal trade is fuelling demand for poached ivory and driving some African elephant populations towards extinction.

A 65kg pair of mounted tusks is on sale for HK$15 million at Chinese Arts and Crafts in Wan Chai. A smaller pair weighing about 40kg is offered for HK$8.2 million. That is equivalent to a per-kilogram price of between HK$205,000 and HK$230,770.

In 2002, a major report on the ivory trade found that a 78kg pair of elephant tusks could be bought in Hong Kong for just HK$250,000 – less than one fiftieth of the price of the smaller pair of tusks on sale at the mainland-owned Wan Chai store.

The sky-high ivory price compares with an average HK$1,220 per kilogram fetched when 102 tonnes of stockpiled ivory was controversially sold to China and Japan by four African countries in 2008. That sale – approved by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) – was the last legal sale of an ivory stockpile globally after a worldwide ban was imposed in 1989.

Hong Kong shops need government-issued licences to sell certain types of ivory, including products carved before the 1989 ban, ivory from the tusks of extinct mammoths, and ivory bought from government stockpile sales in southern Africa.

Staff at branches of Chinese Arts and Crafts said buyers were snapping up ivory not only for display but as an investment, as its value was rising at a rate of 20 per cent a year. “There is no more ivory, so the price is going up and up,” said a saleswoman at the Pacific Place branch of the chain, where a 116cm antique tusk is on sale for HK$1.9 million.

Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the legal ivory trade in Hong Kong was exacerbating the illegal trade in poached and smuggled ivory.

“The legal ivory trade not only provides cover for smuggled ivory to be laundered. It also gives consumers the impression that buying ivory is OK and stimulates more people’s desire to buy,” she said. “Moreover, compared with the astronomical price of ivory in China … the price one pays to buy ivory in Africa is so much cheaper. If one smuggles ivory into China and sells it under the cover of the legal market, the profit margin could be very high.”

CITES spokesman Juan Carlos Vasquez said the organisation was concerned about the illegal trade in ivory and other wildlife products between Hong Kong and the mainland, noting that Shenzhen customs officers made “more CITES-related seizures than anywhere else in China”.

Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department records logged with CITES indicate tusks on sale in Chinese Arts and Crafts are pre-ban ivory legally imported from Germany in 2008.

Ivory prices on the mainland are rising faster than in Hong Kong, at about 50 per cent a year. There is a huge illicit online trade using code words like “elephant teeth” or “white plastic” to circumvent a ban on internet sales.

Joe Huang, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which carried out an investigation into the ivory trade in China, said: “People in China are becoming more educated about wildlife conservation … [But] today, millions of people in China can afford to buy it, and this is the problem.”

Anti-elephant poaching story goes viral in China

December 20, 2013

A newspaper story about the impact of the ivory trade has gone viral in China, raising awareness among millions of Chinese, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The story, published November 15 in Southern Weekly  has been shared widely across Chinese web sites and social media, according to the conservation group.

“The total views of the original Southern Weekly Tweets and Retweets on Weibo (China’s Twitter/Facebook hybrid) exceeded 10 million. Most of these “netizens,” or members of the Chinese online public, were from Tier 1 Chinese cities (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong), the most significant consumers of ivory,” said WCS in a statement.

“The article was reposted on 24 online discussion forums or Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) including Mop and Tianya, two of the most popular in China. Thousands of comments were generated on the Tianya BBS forum alone. Overall over 5,000 comments on the article were posted on Weibo, BBS fora, and other websites.”

The story received wide play outside environmental news, being picked up on finance sites, according to WCS.

“This represents an important shift for the topic of ivory from the specialist environmental pages to the mainstream debate,” said the group.

The article, titled “The Blood Ivory: Behind the Largest Ivory Smuggling Cases in China”, identified Chinese consumption as the main driver of elephant poaching. It noted links between the ivory trade and terror and rebel groups in Africa.

The ivory trade has exploded in recent years due to surging demand from middle class consumers in China. Conservationists estimate that up to 35,000 elephants may have been killed in 2012 alone.

The carnage has spurred several NGO’s, including WCS, to step up campaigns targeting both the supply and demand sides of the trade. In September, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) gave these efforts a boost when it launched a massive push to catalyze support for stopping “blood ivory”.

But reaching Chinese buyers has remained a challenge. Therefore WCS welcomed the news that elephant ivory is now garnering attention in China.

“To have the influential mainstream media make the link between the elephant crisis and the Chinese demand for ivory is hugely significant,” Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, said in a statement.

“In China, it’s not just what is said but who says it,” added Joe Walston, Executive Director of WCS’s Asia Program. “To have the Southern Weekly give its front page to an article highlighting China’s role in the ivory trade is monumental. This is no longer a fringe topic.”

New York State to Hold Hearing on Ivory Trade

Wildlife Conservation Society
December 19, 2013

Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation Will Examine Effectiveness of New York Restrictions on Ivory Sales

Hearing will take place Thursday, January 16, in Manhattan

New York is the largest market for ivory in the U.S.

96 Elephants are killed every day by ivory poachers

Newswise — NEW YORK (December 19, 2013) – The New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation announced a public hearing on ways to improve the effectiveness of the state’s laws and regulations protecting endangered species and restricting the sales of ivory.

The hearing will take place on Thursday, January 16 at 11 a.m. at the Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor, in Manhattan.

Despite the existing legal protections, New York has become one of the leading destinations in the United States for illegal ivory. In 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, seized more than $2 million worth of elephant ivory in New York City.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) estimates that 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa, translating into one elephant death every fifteen minutes and a 76 percent population decline since 2002.

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, Chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation said, “Elephants are a social, smart and peaceful animal whose existence has special protections under the law. Poachers have been illegally killing African elephants for years, bringing them to the brink of extinction. It’s disturbing that New York has become one of the main points of entry for the illegal ivory trade. Not only does this illegal market cause further destruction to an endangered species, but some of the proceeds of the trade go to fund terrorism. I have called this hearing to learn how New York State can help put a stop to these reprehensible actions.”

John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, said, “The New York seizure is evidence of a disturbing fact: there is a direct link between the illegal ivory trade in New York State and the slaughter of elephants in Africa. We are extremely grateful that the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, under the leadership of Chairman Sweeney, is taking the illegal ivory trade in New York so seriously.”

Elephants are killed primarily for their ivory tusks which are used predominantly in carved art and jewelry. Ivory sales are regulated by a complex web of international, federal and state laws and treaties. In New York, ivory sales are regulated pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law §11-0535 which is based in part on the inclusion of elephants on the federal endangered species list in the 1970’s.

In September, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to amplify and support the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to save Africa’s elephants by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

Major Ivory Trafficking Operations Halted, Haul Includes Elephant Tusk And Sculpted Ivory (Republic of Congo)


3 December 2013

The Project for the Application of Law for Fauna (PALF) in the Republic of Congo has today announced one of their most significant operations against the illegal ivory trade. This week, an incredible total of four ivory operations supported by PALF (a collaborative organisation between The Aspinall Foundation, a UK based charity, The Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and the Wildlife Conservation Society), have resulted in the arrests of eight people in these illegal wildlife trafficking groups – whilst more arrests are set to continue. This is one of the most successful hauls of illegal trafficking criminals that PALF and The Aspinall Foundation have been involved in. The major haul started with an enormous elephant tusk seized by PALF and a consortium of NGO’s in the Republic of Congo.

Another of the ivory hauls from a dealer in an international trafficking network included a sack full of sculpted ivory. Early on the 30th November, another dealer with sculpted ivory was arrested and most incredibly and later that afternoon, a 32-year-old Chinese national attempted to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight with ivory jewellery after bribing 60.000 FCFA (about $125 USD) to get it through to via ‘a fixer’ said Natafali Honig.

Naftali Honig, PALF Co-ordinator explained: “We acted fast on the tip-off about this Ethiopian Airlines passenger and within minutes his hand luggage was searched, we found nothing. Then after I tried to ask him about the ivory, we suspected that the illegal haul was in his checked luggage, which was at that time being loaded onto the plane. The rest of the passengers had already boarded the plane whilst we continued to question the passenger.”

After holding up the flight to find the unnamed passenger’s luggage, authorities were able to confirm that there was in fact a suitcase full of ivory on board the plane. A team of people from Eaux et Forêts working at Maya Maya Airport in Brazaville, the Departmental Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the National Gendarmerie ended up arresting the Chinese national and the person who facilitated the passage of his luggage for money.

This week has been a phenomenal success for the Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and especially for the Gendarmerie Nationale, whose tirelessness throughout the week made this huge operation possible.

These seizes were conducted all over Brazzaville, in the morning, in the middle of the day and at night. Naftali Honig, the PALF Co-ordinator explained: “These are not easy cases – corruption attempts are rife and I was particularly moved when one Gendarme asked me and the PALF legal team to work extra hard to assure that these criminals are prosecuted and put into jail so that their hard work was not for nothing.”

Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said; “It is important for The Aspinall Foundation to continue to support vital work against illegal ivory smugglers. This week has been one of our most successful through PALF and also one of our most significant. The ivory trade is out of control and I personally feel that China needs to do more to help us all in the fight against this. I am incredibly proud of the collaborative efforts that continue in the Republic of Congo through PALF as they are making a huge difference, but there is still a long, long way to go in the fight against ivory trafficking.”

In China it is commonly thought that ivory possesses naturopathic benefits as well as a huge value placed on the ornamental market. The trade in ivory has soared on the back of the country’s growing wealth which is a disaster for wildlife. Earlier this year, China was one of the eight countries that submitted national action plans to combat illegal trade in elephant ivory. These plans were requested by the CITES Standing Committee in March 2012 as a response to the dramatic rise in the number of elephants poached for their ivory.

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.