Massive ivory seizure in China shows illegal ivory trade thriving

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Brussels, Belgium
A massive haul of ivory – described as one of the biggest ever – of 707 tusks, 32 ivory bracelets and a rhino horn, was last week netted in a routine patrol by Chinese officials.

The confiscation comes just two weeks after Thailand customs officials found 247 elephant tusks concealed inside a consignment of frozen fish from Kenya.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) salutes the achievement of the Chinese authorities but warns that this is just one shipment in a staggering illegal trade which threatens the continued existence of elephants in some range states.

“We congratulate the law enforcement officials for the successful interception of the ivory. “said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW Asia Regional Director. “However, we are concerned about the unrelenting demand for elephant ivory in China, where the price of ivory has increased dramatically in recent years. The high profit margin that could be gained in illegal trade of ivory is fueling the rampant smuggling and trafficking.”

Chinese police say they confiscated the ivory, valued at around US$15-million (€10 million), in a highway inspection in Guangxi Province on April 10th. Situated in the far south of China, Guangxi Province shares an extensive border with Vietnam.

“This is an unprecedented haul of illegal ivory and shows that the international ivory trade is thriving,” said Kelvin Alie, IFAW’s Wildlife Trade Program Director. “The cost of the ivory trade is so much more than just the street value. Each year numerous park rangers die trying to protect elephants from poachers armed with military grade weapons. As a keystone species elephants are vital for protecting the biodiversity integrity of a region and the increase in poaching means that they could well be wiped off the map in certain regions.

“We have to reduce demand for ivory or we will never bring this bloody onslaught to an end,” continued Gabriel. “To break every link on this trade chain—from supply to trafficking to demand—needs high level political commitment from governments of elephant range and consuming countries to crack down on poaching, smuggling and trade of ivory.”

“What these countries now need is the commitment of the international community to financially support these highly skilled and motivated trainees to be able to meet the task of protecting elephants and stop the legal trade in ivory which facilitates poaching and illegal trade,” concluded Alie.

April 2011 has proven to be one of the most disastrous yet for elephants. In addition to the most recent confiscations of ivory in China and Thailand, IFAW announced last week that in Chad, central Africa, between April 9 – 11, 30 elephants were found dead and their tusks hacked out by ivory poachers. At the same time the attackers murdered a military official, who was apparently trying to protect the elephants.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia