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CHINESE DEMAND FOR IVORY DRIVES THE SLAUGHTER OF THOUSANDS OF ELEPHANTS EACH YEAR FOR TUSKS

12:17 PM
CHINESE DEMAND FOR IVORY DRIVES THE SLAUGHTER OF THOUSANDS OF ELEPHANTS EACH YEAR FOR TUSKS
"China is the only country…that allows internal ivory trade under a control system," but "failed to effectively police the system and track the sale of legally-imported ivory," according to a WWF report of 23 African and Asian countries that have the highest level of illegal ivory trade, reports the Global Times.
"Chinese collectors and investors [consider] ivory products as 'white gold' and believe that ivory can help with exorcising evil spirits," said a representative from the WWF Beijing Office. "Ivory is also a traditional medicine, which provides another incentive for Chinese buyers."

"An estimated 23,000 elephants were illegally slaughtered in 2006 simply so the ivory can be ripped from their jaws and sold on the black market," according to Spiegel Online.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) 2011 survey of China's ivory markets discovered that the trade in illegal ivory was happening in legal facilities, most of which "violated the system in some way to launder illegal ivory."

"The existence of a legal ivory market [in China] provides loopholes for smuggled ivory, because retailers can smuggle ivory under the cover of the legal domestic market," said He Yong, a spokesman for the China branch of IFAW.

"China has historically been a significant destination for illicit trade in ivory and was identified as the single most important influence on the increasing trend in illegal trade in ivory since 1995," according to IFAW, which notes that since an ivory product can sell for as much as 5 million yuan ($785,400) at auction, more retailers are lured into the ivory trade.

"Elephants could be wiped out across Africa in 10 to 15 years if poaching continues at its current pace, Ginny Stein of ABC News reports.

Poachers are outnumbering and outgunning rangers in elephant havens like the Garamba National Park in the Republic of Congo, leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year.
As much as 70 percent of the illegal ivory feeds insatiable demand in China.

"We are going to lose the largest animal on earth just so people can have trinkets," Cynthia Moss, an American conservationist who has spent the past 30 years studying elephants in Kenya, told ABC News." According to BusinessInsider.

"Last month, the authorities in Hong Kong have intercepted one of the largest shipments of illegal ivory in history — 1,209 elephant tusks and ivory ornaments weighing more than 8,400 pounds.

The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department announced the seizure on Saturday of 3,813 kilograms of ivory hidden inside two containers shipped from Tanzania and Kenya. One container was labeled as carrying plastic scrap, the other was marked as dried beans.

It was the largest-ever seizure of contraband ivory in Hong Kong. Even within the context of soaring wildlife poaching, the numbers are staggering: the equivalent of more than 600 dead elephants.

So lucrative is the ivory trade now that well-armed mafias have gotten in on the act. Hong Kong officials estimated the value of the seizure at 26.7 million Hong Kong dollars, or just under $3.5 million.

The customs agency, which said in a statement that it had “smashed” the ivory smuggling case, reported no arrests. But the South China Morning Post reported that seven people in China were arrested in connection with the seizure.

As I have written here, demand from an increasingly affluent Asia, improved international transport and trade links, and weak enforcement and feeble penalties (in many countries) have caused wildlife poaching to jump over the past decade or two.

More than 300 elephants were killed in Cameroon alone early this year." According to International Herald Tribune.

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