|Police seize a python skin as part of an operation that resulted in more than 200 arrests in fourteen African countries.|
A recent crackdown of what happens to be the biggest seizure of elephant ivory in fourteen African countries has revealed a prosperous trade in the illegal contraband by international crime syndicates. According to the Interpol, more than 200 people were arrested and almost two tons of ivory was seized across Africa in a series of raids. Officials say that the rise in poaching is connected to the increasing presence of Chinese investors and workers in Africa, with Kenya being the biggest passage for smuggled ivory where about ninety percent of traffickers arrested at airports are Chinese. A new study by a wildlife conservation group indicates that vast majority of smuggled ivory goes to China, and has redoubled in the past six years. Interpol stated that a recent wildlife operation dubbed Operation Worthy was carried out by more than 320 law enforcement agents over the past three months at border crossings, markets, ports, roadside inspections, and shops across Africa. This operation was bolstered by Environment Canada, which provided the local police with training in wildlife law and investigative techniques. The intelligence assembled in the operation will find connections between poachers, and the global smuggling syndicates that are gathering millions of dollars from wildlife smuggling. In addition to ivory, police also uncovered cheetah and lion pelts, crocodile and python skins, live tropical birds, turtles, and more than 20 kilograms of rhino horns. The raids even revealed an array of weapons used by the syndicates. Among them were AK-47 and M16 automatic rifles,which indicated the sophisticated firepower of these well-armed groups. A similar operation in China this year resulted in a seizure of thousands of endangered animals. Study of the Chinese ivory market by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) showed that majority of Chinese ivory traders are illegal, and even legal dealers are violating the rules in ivory control. It concluded that smuggled ivory is easily concealed through China's organization of licensed dealers. The group also added that the rising strength of the Chinese currency, combined with the rapidly growing price of ivory, has allowed traffickers to make colossal profits by purchasing ivory in Africa and selling it in China.
|Uganda customs and revenue authority with ivory tusks seized at the Entebbe International Airport.|
I'm deeply overwhelmed by the number of seizures carried out in all these African countries. They are a clear indication about the rise in the demand of ivory and every other animal body part in China. But what truly shocks me is the fact that the battle against the threat of poaching and the wildlife trade is a losing one on the side of the authorities. According IFAW spokesman Adrien Hiel, the penalties against these crimes are much smaller compared to arms trafficking, drug trafficking, and human trafficking. This makes me feel extremely appalled and disgusted that wildlife crimes are not taken seriously like regular crimes which endanger the lives of the general public. The governments of the various nations need to come together, and impose stricter and more stronger penalties against wildlife crimes they want to make the world a better place to live in. Just recently, Prince William had expressed his feelings towards the trade in rhino horns calling the business "ignorant, selfish, and utterly wrong." I used to think that whenever these world-renowned people, whether they were government officials or even famous celebrities, would voice their concerns towards any such catastrophe, it would motivate and inspire the general public to take action against any issue related to either the environment or the wildlife. However, the public should not always rely on such figures in order to act up against such issues. Education in the dangers that these issues pose and how to help in an effort to fight them is the main key, in order to help keep the world's natural environments and its inhabitants safe. Unfortunately, there are probably very few such countries notorious for these illegal activities where the public is educated and has taken a step to advocate for stiffer penalties. Kenya is one of them. But there are several other countries where these illicit acts of violence and bloodshed operate virtually with impunity. Mr. Hiel stated that most people in China do not realize the harsh truth behind the ivory products they purchase. The public in such nations really need to wake-up and smell the reality. They should not wait for another series of such seizures to realize their ignorance. My opinion is that these recent seizures should be taken as a wake-up call in a fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Otherwise, the extinction of the world species would be a result of public ignorance and carelessness.
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