China Smashes US$100-million Ivory Smuggling Ring
Chinese customs officials said yesterday they had bust two international smuggling rings responsible for trafficking nearly US$100-million of elephant ivory from Africa to China.
Xinhua news agency reports that a long term investigation by China’s Xiamen Customs authority had smashed two ivory smuggling rings. The gangs were said to be responsible for trafficking up 12 tons of ivory, valued at US$99,7-million (HK$767-million) into China.
The first gang was coordinated by a man who owns a licensed ivory shop, and smuggled the ivory to meet the demand for ivory beyond that which he was legally allowed to sell in China. Several members of his trafficking gang were arrested in August, and almost 2,000 kilograms of ivory seized. Several loads of ivory, including four in 2011, were thought to have been smuggled by this gang.
The second gang under investigation are said to be responsible for a 4.2 ton haul of ivory seized in late 2012.
Earlier this week, Tanzanian authorities announced they had seized a haul of 706 tusks from the house of three Chinese traders in Dar es Salaam on Saturday (2nd November).
These latest events come as hundreds of ministerial level representatives from around the world gather today at the INTERPOL - UNEP international Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference (ECEC) in Nairobi, Kenya, to explore common strategies for combatting the growing menace of environmental crime.
Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org) called on international leaders to commit at the highest level to developing National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs), as outlined by INTERPOL.
“People from around the world are outraged that organized criminal networks are robbing the world of our elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife, purely for the profit of a very few outlaws. If range state countries are willing to commit to enforcement that works across national boundaries, IFAW’s supporters in non-range states are willing to step-up and help fund those efforts,” said Downes.
“Wildlife crime ranks among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of International crimes along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales. The best chance we have to stop illegal wildlife trade is a real commitment by the international community to take action,” he commented.
Grace GeGabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW, praised the efforts of Chinese authorities on intercepting and the two smuggling rings.
“Kudos for their determination to put an end to ivory trafficking – their work to interrupt the illegal trade in elephant ivory is very encouraging, but the fact that so much ivory is being intercepted is an indication of how far out of control elephant poaching has become,” said Ge Gabriel.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.
As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.