AboutZoos, Since 2008


East Africa a clear­ing house for ille­gal ivory

pub­lished 16 Novem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 16 Novem­ber 2012

Elephant corpse ChadJason Bell, Direc­tor of IFAW’s Ele­phant Pro­gramme said the last 24 months have been among the most deadly ever for ele­phants. Three record-​sized ivory con­fis­ca­tions in just three weeks, has put a fur­ther dent in East Africa’s grow­ing image as a clear­ing house for the bloody ille­gal ivory trade.

  • This week Dubai cus­toms announced it had inter­cepted a con­sign­ment of 215 ele­phant tusks val­ued at US$4.1-million being shipped to Hong Kong from Kenya. They were con­cealed in bags marked as “red beans”.
  • Two weeks ago, on the 31 Octo­ber, Tan­za­nia made one of its biggest ivory busts ever when police found more than 200 tusks val­ued at US$1.32-million hid­den in a cof­fin and bags marked “fer­til­izer”. The con­tra­band was being sent to Kenya from Dar-​es-​Salaam. Three sus­pects, includ­ing two Kenyans were arrested.
  • And on 20 Octo­ber, Hong Kong seized a record smash­ing 3,81 tonnes of ille­gal ivory — the largest ever in China and the largest world­wide in two years. The ivory com­prised 1,209 tusks and ivory pieces and was found on board two ships from Tan­za­nia and Kenya, and marked as “plas­tic scrap” and “rose coco” beans.

They are a bleak reflec­tion of the pre­dic­tion by James Isiche, Regional Direc­tor, IFAW East­ern Africa who said yes­ter­day: “At this rate, it might only be a mat­ter of weeks before we get reports of another big ivory seizure impli­cat­ing Kenya and Tan­za­nia, the two major con­duits or sources, or both of large con­sign­ments of ille­gal ivory in the last two years.” He also said the trend of ivory seizures glob­ally was omi­nous, and raised the spec­tre of the hey­days of the 1970s and 1980s when ele­phant and rhino poach­ing reached their zenith.

In 2011, in total, author­i­ties seized close to 27 tons of ille­gal ivory — the biggest amount in 23 years — and, in the first quar­ter of 2012, poach­ers in Cameroon slaugh­tered an esti­mated 650 ele­phants for their ivory. It is clear that ele­phants are under more threat today, than they have been in a long time
Jason Bell, Direc­tor of IFAW’s Ele­phant Pro­gramme »

Writ­ing in Kenya’s Daily Nation yes­ter­day James Isiche said: “The need for Kenyan law enforce­ment author­i­ties to stamp out poach­ing and work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other African ele­phant range States to seal off ivory traf­fick­ing routes can­not be over­stated. The gov­ern­ment owes its cit­i­zenry an expla­na­tion for the rife poach­ing and numer­ous seizures of ivory in Asia which have tran­sited from Kenya. We need to know what action has been or is being taken against these crim­i­nals who seem to be act­ing with arro­gant impunity,”.

Poaching tuskstailsgunsIFAW Mid­dle East Regional Direc­tor, Elsayed Mohamed, said it was not sur­pris­ing the ille­gal wildlife trade had tar­geted Dubai as a tran­sit point for ille­gal ivory.

Dubai is a major cen­tre for import and export, con­nected to many dif­fer­ent trade routes, which make it a pop­u­lar cen­tre for inter­na­tional trade. It is not sur­pris­ing that wildlife trade is part of this mix,” said Mohamed, and added “IFAW con­grat­u­lates the Dubai Cus­tom Author­ity and Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment for their efforts in pre­vent­ing the ille­gal wildlife trade by not only con­fis­cat­ing this ship­ment of ele­phant tusks but also for the con­fis­ca­tion of sev­eral other ille­gal wildlife ship­ments.”

IFAW assists Dubai Cus­toms in train­ing their offi­cers in the pre­ven­tion of wildlife traf­fick­ing. As part of a world­wide capac­ity build­ing ini­tia­tive by IFAW which trains law enforce­ment offi­cers in wildlife traf­fick­ing pre­ven­tion in sev­eral coun­tries through­out Africa, the Mid­dle East, Asia, Ocea­nia, and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,300 gov­ern­men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the fore­front of this strug­gle have been trained since 2006.

Most ille­gal ivory is des­tined for Asia, in par­tic­u­lar China, where it has soared in value as an invest­ment vehi­cle and cov­eted as “white gold”. Lim­ited avail­abil­ity of legal ivory China pur­chased from the stock­pile sale from south­ern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encour­ag­ing ille­gal ivory trade and the poach­ing of ele­phants to meet mar­ket needs. IFAW says an esti­mated 25,00050,000 ele­phants were killed for their ivory in 2011.

Few ani­mals are as threat­ened by wildlife traf­fick­ing as ele­phants. Ear­lier this year IFAW raised the alarm as hun­dreds of ele­phants were slaugh­tered in Cameroon. A recent report from IFAW makes it clear that Chi­nese demand, and demand in other Asian coun­tries, is largely to blame.

(Source: IFAW Press release, 15.11.2012)

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