|100 Elephants Killed Daily To Meet Illegal Ivory Demand, Chinese Appetite Whetted|
Thanks to the controversial approval of a one-off ivory sale, illegal trade in ivory has been reinvigorated - and 100 elephants a day are being slaughtered.
The approval of China and Japan as trading partners in the ivory auction remains a questionable move (a huge mistake, many would argue), as both countries are known for being among the world’s largest markets for illegal ivory.
The result? A resurgence in ivory demand and the deaths of 100 elephants a day.
At this rate, wild African elephants will be extinct by 2025.
Chinese appetite for ivory
But China stands alone in the sheer size of its ivory appetite. And now, with more Chinese enjoying rising incomes, the status symbol of ivory has become attainable for the growing number of China’s baofahu - the “suddenly wealthy”.
And, according to the Financial Times’ Shopping Habits of China’s ‘Suddenly Wealthy’, this dangerous combination is having a devastating effect on endangered species - including elephants.
Traditional Chinese tastes, combined with the explosion in wealth during the past decade, have created a rapacious and unsustainable call for the body parts of endangered species. The manufacture of traditional delicacies, ornaments and medicinal ingredients has helped to cut swathes through populations of sharks, elephants, seahorses and other species across the world – and that demand is only expected to increase.
CEO of Care for the Wild International, Barbara Maas, explained that the growing Chinese footprint in Africa is disconcerting to conservationists.
With the number of Chinese nationals resident in Africa rising, and poaching on the increase, the frontline between supply and demand for ivory is now perilously close, with a disastrous outcome for elephants.
In fact, a China ivory trade report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found unwillingness among Chinese citizens to comply with the ivory control system - and a desire for “affordable” ivory.
14.5 percent polled were already ivory consumers
Rangers on the front lines in elephant range states continue to lose their lives protecting elephants from poaching.
Developing countries continue to bear the brunt of burgeoning Asian markets. By permitting legal trade in ivory, we are only encouraging the laundering of stocks by poachers, thereby increasing illegal hunting activities. The situation is very clear: more ivory in the marketplace equals many more dead elephants – and rangers.
And there is an “uncomfortable link” between the recent influx of Chinese workers in Kenya and the surge in elephant killings.
Information linking elephant killings in Kenya with Chinese workers has recently made its way to the surface. The slaughtered elephants have all had their tusks hacked out - a sure sign of ivory poaching.
What’s going on?
The effects of the CITES-sanctioned auction are likely at fault: The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has strongly opposed any type of ivory trade with China, stating that the legal auction would encourage Chinese demand. Patrick Ormandi, KWS Head of Species and Conservation Management, confirmed that there has been a surge of elephant killings.
Last year we lost 98 elephants to poachers and up to today, this year, we have lost up to 73 elephants. This is a big worry and all this is stimulated because there was an experiment to trade.
KWS also suspects it is more than a “coincidence” that a large number of elephant killings have occurred in areas where Chinese crews have recently arrived for massive construction projects.
Moses Litoroh, KWS elephant program coordinator, noted an unusually close proximity between the elephant killings and areas where the Chinese newcomers are working.
More than 50 per cent of the dead elephants we have found have been in that area in the north where the Chinese are working on the road. We can perhaps assume that they have had a hand in it, maybe not all of them, but the coincidence is causing us great concern.
Earlier this year, Wildlife Direct’s Paula Kahumbu told Reuters she also believes there is a link between some of the Chinese in Africa and the rising elephant slaughter.
We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of poaching. We believe it is primarily due to the fact that the ivory sale last November has actually stimulated the markets …
There’s a massive influx of people, who are not very wealthy, who can afford to buy ivory at local prices and who make a lot of money out of it when they get it back to China.
And yet another issue has connected China to elephant poaching: Ivory smuggling.
Increasing links between ivory smuggling and China
The Telegraph UK reported late last year that “the majority of ivory smugglers arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi are now Chinese Nationals.”
Authorities also believe that the July seizure of an illegal shipment of elephant ivory and rhino horn in Laos was en route to China.
Paula Kahumbu points out that the problem is even more widespread.
It (should) not be easy to move a container load of ivory from a country to another when there are such strict regulations. It means there is facilitation going on.
One “suspicious coincidence” after another seems to link China to the elephant poaching crisis. And of course, in an absurd PR scramble, China has “officially denied” any links to elephant poaching.
It’s time to stop dancing around this issue and pretending there is some sort of “mystery” behind the slaughter of Africa’s elephants: China absolutely must be held accountable for its role in elephant poaching.
Source: GO Media - Written by Rhishja Larson - Images: Wikimedia Commons