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Poacher’s market (Africa/China)

jeudi 12 janvier 2012

Advertisement posters, pleading the public to say "no" to ivory products, have been placed in many subway stations in cities across China, and have drawn attention to the growing illegal trade of the product in the country.

However, the posters are far from enough to stop the rampant trading of ivory in China. According to a recent survey by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), China has replaced Japan to become the largest market of illegal ivory consumption.

The organization inspected 158 ivory processing and retail locations in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Putian in Fujian Province, discovering that the number of illegal stores is nearly twice the number of legal ones.

It also said that illegal ivory trades globally have increased from 4,000 cases in 40 countries in 1997 to more than 10,000 cases in 77 countries and regions today.

Hua Ning, the project manager at the IFAW China office, told the Global Times that due to the ivory trade, the number of African elephants has decreased from 1.3 million to 600,000 over the last 20 years.

Evil consumption

Animal protection experts called the purchase of ivories, or ivory-made products, "evil consumption."

In Guangzhou, some buy the ivory to engrave seals or gift it to business partners or officials, said Zhang Xingsheng, managing director of the Nature Conservancy’s North Asia Region.

"The possession of rare but valuable items can show off one’s great power or abilities," Zhang told the Global Times, adding that he believes there are collectors, but is unsure of their motivations to do so.

Since the ivory trade is forbidden, there are no exhibitions for collectors to show their items and then sell them. Therefore, it is possible that they just hoard it to get a higher price on the black market.

Most ivory consumers are young or middle-aged and have a good income and education background, said Hua.

"Many buyers believe that an elephant’s tusks will grow back after being cut off," she said. "But the truth is that poachers usually kill them and then cut off their tusks because elephants are dangerous animals."

Ivory sources

According to international regulations, ivory trade in commercial fields is forbidden. To protect wild elephants and improve their living situation however, an auction of remaining ivory stores was held in four African countries in 2008.

Four Chinese companies successfully bid for the right to import ivories that year, bringing 62 tons to the country, which is the only batch of ivories legally allowed to circulate in China until 2017.

According to DNA analysis, 90 percent of smuggled ivories in the world come from Africa, Southern Weekend reported.

Concealed in containers, luggage, or in the mail, ivories are transferred from the black market in Africa to Asia and Europe. Nearly half of the ivories that land on the southeast coast of China are processed in Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and are then sent to Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Jiangsu, said the report.

China National Arts & Crafts (Group) Cooperation (CNACGC) is one of the companies that import ivories. To date, it has sold only 17.5 tons of ivories, according to the Southern Weekend, which also reported that two ivory carving factories in Beijing and Guangzhou bought 13 tons of the batch, while some smaller factories shared the last 4.5 tons.

With the limited supply of ivories coming from only the CNACGC, the ivory market was supposed to shrink in China. Instead it has boomed over the last seven years from nine processing factories and 31 retail locations to 36 processing enterprises and 137 resellers, Southern Weekend reported.

An insider told the report that two experienced workers could finish carving 100 kilograms of ivories in two years. Judging from the massive number of workers and the ivories they carve at factories, all indicators point toward it being sourced by other means.

"China now has ivories legally circulating on the market. However, the illegal trade has not stopped, and has instead worsened," Zhang told the Global Time. Efforts to crack down

The Global Times interviewed an ivory collector in Beijing online who used the pseudonym "green tea."

He said he spent 4,716 yuan ($764) last year on a 28-gram ivory-made blessing card, and a 103-gram piece of ivory from a friend who deals in ivory in Tianjin.

"He imported the ivory from Tanggu, a port city in Tianjin. Most of the ‘goods’ in Beijing come from Tanggu," he said, admitting he knows he got his ivory illegally and does not have any collection licenses.

The IFAW investigation showed that at the 20 legal retailers, many ivory-made items do not come with collection licenses, and 14 of them would suggest consumers not ask for one.

Animal protection organizations, like the IAFW, have taken progressive actions to combat the ivory trade.

"We have begun market inspection activities, and will report any illegal trade to the government," said Hua.

Zhang told the Global Times that together with many other organizations, they are trying to strengthen animal protection education amongst Chinese workers in African countries.

"Nearly 80 percent of the ivory smugglers caught at airports in Kenya are Chinese," said Zhang.

"Besides cracking down harder on the illegal ivory trade, the government should also stop auctions, similar to the one in 2008, for ivory import rights," he said.

By Liu Meng, People’s Daily Online

January 12, 2012

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