China key to addressing Elephant survival in Africa

November 7, 2014

The slaughter of Africa’s elephants and the illegal trade in ivory is terrifying and if statistics being mentioned are anything to go by, then the situation is spiraling “out of control” and could push wild elephant’s extinction within a generation. A soon to be released joint report by Save the Elephants and The Aspinall Foundation shows that soaring quantities of ivory are being sold in rapidly growing numbers of shops in China, with over 100,000 elephants killed from 2010 to 2012.“Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China, the wholesale price of raw elephant tusks has tripled in just four years since 2010 have sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory that is driving the unsustainable killing of elephants in Africa,” according to the report. Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years, largely driven by rising demand in Asia for ivory which finds its way into jewelry and ornaments and rhino horn, which is coveted as a traditional medicine. Wildlife Investigators from the campaign groups are said to have visited scores of shops and factories in China, the world’s main ivory manufacturing center, comparing quantities on sale and costs.“Every metric on the ivory trade has exploded upwards in recent years. The prices of raw and worked ivory in China, number of licensed carving factories, retail outlets both illegal and legal, items on sale, all have shot up,” one of the investigators involved told your blogger recently.

A young elephant in Maasai Mara, Kenya
A young elephant in Maasai Mara, Kenya

The number of legal ivory stores in China shot up from 31 in 2004 to 145 last year, while the number of ivory carving factories increased from nine to 37 over the same period. The report concludes that illegal sale of ivory in unlicensed stores is growing just as fast. They also noted that prices for raw ivory in China had risen from $750 per kilo in 2010 to $2,100 this year. Organized crime syndicates are increasingly using poaching to fund their crimes, reaping the benefits of multi-billion-dollar demand. There is no doubt that China faces enormous challenges in law enforcement to control the ivory trade, as the number of rich business people in the country with interest in buying ivory continues to increase,” according to the report set for released in December. It is interesting that Chinese contract workers are going to Africa and buying increasing quantities of illegal ivory to smuggle. Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants have been lost to poachers each year between 2010 and 2012. Some in China using the legal trade in ancient mammoth tusk “as a cover for selling elephant ivory,” while the “growing legal ivory trade in China is providing a smokescreen for illegal activity.” China is making efforts to stem the trade although the measures were not going far enough. Report authors noted that Beijing has closed down factories and stores and at the same time jailed hundreds of dealers and sentencing a significant number of smugglers to life in prison. China holds the key to the future of elephants and without Beijing’s leadership in ending demand for ivory, the report will warn that Africa’s elephants could disappear from the wild within the next two decades.

Contador Harrison