Chinese blamed for rise in elephant poaching

Friday April 13 2012

A Kenya Wildlife Services ranger shows elephant tusks intercepted from poachers. Photo/FILE

A Kenya Wildlife Services ranger shows elephant tusks intercepted from poachers. Photo/FILE 

By Paul Redfern NATION Correspondent in London

The large number of Chinese now working across Africa has fuelled elephant poaching on the continent, according to a BBC report.

The animal, which is targeted for its ivory, could be wiped out in many African countries by the end of this century unless efforts are stepped up to stem the growth of poaching, says the report, which was broadcast during the Panorama programme on Thursday.

t further said that Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was being used to facilitate much of the illegal trade in ivory despite efforts by Kenyan officials to prevent it.

Trade in ivory was made illegal worldwide in 1989. The ban was, however, lifted in 2008 to allow southern African countries to sell stockpiled ivory to China and Japan. Campaigners say this has increased the demand for illegal ivory.

Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory for more than two decades, said the report. It further said that law-enforcement agents and conservation authorities across the continent seem to be losing the battle against the poachers.

A quarter of Samburu’s previously stable elephant population has been lost since 2009 mainly due to illegal killing.

The worst hit country is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where thousands of elephants are killed each year.

Conservationists have recorded steep declines in the animal’s population. They estimate that less than 20,000 of the region’s elephants remain in the Congo Basin. In Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, poached ivory is openly sold at unregulated markets.

While traders were wary of being filmed by a BBC TV crew, a Chinese undercover reporter working for Panorama quickly attracted the attention of sellers using the Chinese word for ivory to good effect.

The reporter was offered whole raw tusks in one market, including one giant piece about 1.5 metres long for $10,000.

Mr Tom Milliken, who monitors and campaigns against the illegal trade, said: “These markets are patronised by ex-pat communities and Chinese business.”