Saturday, November 8, 2014

Environmental Investigation Agency Report Connects Chinese Delegations to Tanzania's Elephant Poaching

A skeleton of an elephant killed by poachers outside of Arusha in Tanzania.  

A recent report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) titled "Vanishing Point" has accused powerful Chinese delegations as passages in illegally exporting ivory out of Tanzania, contributing to the disturbing decline in the country's elephant population. It also specified the effort, money, and time spent by Chinese nationals in Tanzania to form a system of people who aid the smuggling of ivory. According to EIA's executive director Mary Rice, the agency's investigators spoke to an organization of ivory traders in Zanzibar and found out that Chinese nationals have established legal businesses but also revel in ivory smuggling. She further added that different people to different jobs to ensure that ivory gets successfully smuggled out of Tanzania. For example, one person would obtain the ivory, another person can take it to a holding center, and there would also be a person who can transfer the ivory to a port where customs officials are bribed to allow it to be exported. The report also indicated that corrupt Tanzanian officials have played into the hands of ivory smugglers. In addition, it also added that more than 100,000 elephants were ruthlessly massacred between 2010 and 2012. Furthermore, in reference to China's delegations becoming conduits for ivory smuggling, the report pointed out that a formal visit by a Chinese naval task force to Dar es Salaam in December led to a major rise in business for ivory traders. One trader bragged of making $50,000 from sales to the naval crew and a Chinese national was caught trying to come to the port with 81 ivory tusks destined for two mid-ranking naval officers. The report even revealed that when President Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March 2013 with a large retinue, it led to a surge in illegal ivory sales and caused local prices to increase.
Elephants in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve

It is extremely disturbing to see how the illegal ivory trade is facilitated as a result of Chinese delegates arriving to Tanzania for diplomatic purposes. The fact that the increase in elephant-poaching and illegal ivory trade following diplomatic visits by Chinese nationals in Tanzania has made the country one of the largest sources of poached ivory in the world. One of Tanzania's protected areas, Selous Game Reserve, has witnessed a 67 percent drop in its elephant population between 2009 and 2013 - from 50,000 elephants to 13,000. In addition, Tanzania has lost more elephants to poachers in this four-year span than any other country. For example, more than 10,000 elephant were massacred in 2013 which is equal to thirty elephants killed per day. The reason for the surge in Tanzania's elephants being ruthlessly slaughtered as a result of Chinese diplomatic visits is clear; to meet the growing demand of ivory in China. As long as the elephant-poaching epidemic continues in Tanzania, it would greatly affect the country's tourism industry and the socioeconomic development. Furthermore, the money produced from the illegal ivory trade would be used for global criminal activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and even terrorism. If Tanzania and China want to maintain a diplomatic relation, then both the countries' governments should become involved in the battle against poaching in the illegal ivory trade. That is, they should help each other in identifying any delegations or corrupt officials involved in or suspected of being involved in poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. In addition, customs officials and other authorities should be educated in looking out for any signs of bribery in order to prevent any ivory or other endangered wildlife products from being smuggled. Tanzania, like most African countries, relies on tourism as a crucial economic factor and when poaching and the illegal wildlife trade occurs, it greatly affects the country's economy as well as the tourism industry.

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