Elephant poaching in DRC and seizures in Vietnam show elephants imperiled by ivory trade

Wednesday, 26 October, 2011
Brussels, Belgium
Reports this week of rampant poaching by armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo add a disturbing twist to Monday’s announcement of a seizure of more than a ton of ivory seized in Vietnam.

These disturbing events come after seven months of record poaching incidents and seizures. IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) commends the authorities for arrests that have been made but warns that much more needs to be done to reduce the threat to elephants.

“As long as demand for ivory in China continues to increase elephants in Africa and Asia will be under increasing pressure from poaching,” said James Isiche, IFAW East Africa Director. “China and Japan may have bought legal ivory in 2008 but here in elephant range states we continue to pay the price for that purchase as any legal trade in ivory provides the cover for ivory trafficking. We know what the solution is – it worked in 1989 and it can work again – a full and complete ban on all sales of ivory.”

According to media reports soldiers from different parts of the DRC conduct massive poaching raids in the Okapi Reserve which is in the north-east of the DRC near the Ugandan border. Local populations are coerced into leading the soldiers to find their wildlife targets, predominantly elephants. The soldiers use automatic weapons for poaching the 7500 forest elephants in the reserve; the largest remaining population in eastern DRC.

In Vietnam authorities found a ton of ivory in 221 individual pieces of tusks on Sunday hidden in rolls of fabric that were being transported on a boat on the Ka Long river bordering Vietnam and China. Customs officials said Monday that a Chinese man who was escorting the boat and the Vietnamese captain were detained by local police for further investigation. Earlier in the year Vietnamese officials seized 122 tusks and Chinese officials seized 707 tusks just over the border in separate incidents.

“These events make it clear that China’s legal ivory market is a big attraction for ivory smugglers. There is ample opportunity to get the illegal ivory ‘white-washed’ and sold under the cover of legal trade. said Grace Ge Gabriel IFAW Asia Regional Director. “We need the international community to stand up against the ivory trade once and for all. We urge everyone to go to www.elephantmarch.com to pressure their government into taking action to save elephants.”

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

 Founded in 1969, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) 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.  Photos and video available at www.ifawimages.com.


Illegal ivory seizures in the recent months

According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) there has been, “a steadily increasing trend in levels of illicit ivory trade in 2004 onwards, with an exceptionally sharp upsurge in 2009….seizures of ivory reached record levels in 2009 and that these levels were largely sustained in 2010.

2011 has borne witness to a staggering degree of carnage with 5004 elephant tusks seized in these known major seizures. Countless smaller seizures have also taken place.

April 1st  - Thai officials discovered 247 tusks hidden in a shipment from Kenya. It is not clear where the ivory originated.

Two weeks later Vietnamese officials seized 122 elephant tusks. One day after that Chinese officials uncovered 707 elephant tusks during a routine inspection.

In early May Kenyan authorities uncovered 84 elephant tusks at Nairobi airport.

On July 8th Malaysian officials seized 405 elephant tusks.

On July 26th US Fish and Wildlife Officers made their biggest-ever bust in Philadelphia of approximately 1 metric ton of ivory.

In mid-August a China-bound shipment from Tanzania was seized in Malaysia with 664 elephant tusks.

1041 elephant tusks bound for Malaysia were seized in Zanzibar on August 23rd.

Officials in Hong Kong seized 794 African elephant tusks on a shipment from Malaysia at the end of August.

That same week officials in Malaysia seized 695 elephant tusks that had come from Tanzania and were bound for China.

On Sept. 30th Vietnamese officials seized at least 24 tusks in the north-central province of Nghe An.

Three weeks later Vietnamese officials seized approximately 221 tusks hidden in a boat bound for China.

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