Sunday, May 31, 2015

China Agrees to Terminate its Ivory Industry to Fight Elephant Poaching

Illegal ivory being crushed in Beijing

China has long been labeled as a major source of demand for elephant ivory coming from Africa, which has dramatically reduced the numbers of elephants through poaching in recent times. But now, it appears that might be changing with China for the first time agreeing to phase out its national manufacture and sale of ivory products. The action was hailed by conservationists who called the announcement "the single greatest measure" in the battle to save Africa's last elephants from poaching. An event in Beijing saw foreign consuls witnessing 662 kg of seized ivory being significantly demolished. It was also here where head of China's State Forestry Administration Zhao Shucong indicated that the country will rigidly control its ivory processing and trade until the financial processing and sale of ivory and its products are finally stopped. This announcement to phase out ivory was part of a 10-point plan which also included tighter policing of the illegal wildlife trade both on and offline, refreshed efforts to reduce demand through public campaigns and engagements to international cooperation. It came less than two months before mutual trade talks between China and the U.S, which are the two largest markets of for illegal ivory in the world. There is a continuous talk between U.S and China on fighting the illegal ivory trade. Conservationist groups are expectant that the talks will finally create an organized international response to the ongoing crisis. According to Peter Knights, the executive director of WildAid, the announcement was symbolic but he would be waiting to see whether the promise was delivered. He further added that WildAid's recent survey showed that 95 percent of Chinese people supported a complete ban on ivory sales.

Although it appears to be excellent and promising news that China has finally put its foot down and agreed to phase out its ivory trade, it still does not indicate that the illegal ivory trade has ceased. It is essential to cut consumer demand in China to stop the loss of Africa's last remaining elephants. Unfortunately, the progress has been slow. Since the international ban on ivory trade in 1989, it was believed that China has confiscated more than forty tonnes of ivory. The stockpile was delivered to licensed carving factories and then sold legally in markets across China. Conservation groups stated that this supports the demand for black market ivory from freshly killed elephants. This week, it was reported that Mozambique had lost half of its population of 20,000 elephants in a span of five years. Although China and a handful of other countries have destroyed confiscated ivory as a symbolic gesture that the illegal ivory trade will not be tolerated, some critics argued that the actions do more harm than good as they create a feeling of deficiency, driving the price higher. Zhou stated that the termination of ivory stockpiles was only appropriate if it was supported by strict measurements to fight the smuggling organizations and cut down the demand among Chinese people. This means that China and other countries must conduct concrete measures to combat organized criminal syndicates that are driving the illegal trade in ivory and other wildlife products. Furthermore, these syndicates probably have political connections which means politicians in countries rife with poaching and illegal wildlife trade as well as corruption are involved in the ongoing decimation of elephants and other endangered species.

The world has seen enough carnage directed at elephants and other endangered species due to the continuous demand of ivory, rhino horns, and other wildlife products. It's time to take a tough stand against this ongoing atrocity and combat it in a well-coordinated effort between countries that fall in the midst of the trade routes for smuggling endangered wildlife. This includes targeting corrupt politicians having ties with operators of the illegal wildlife trade and even militant groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Janjaweed, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who have made a name for themselves as key players in the ivory trade. These groups have also been responsible for numerous crimes against humanity as well as the decimation in Africa's elephant numbers and should be dealt with a severe blow by any means necessary. Some of these groups have ties to major terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and suppressing them might help in going after such global syndicates. In addition, ivory-carving factories across China, licensed or unlicensed, should be closed down and every trace of ivory found in any of those factories should be destroyed on sight. This would help reduce the demand for black market ivory. Africa is known to rely on tourism as a major economic sector for its socio-economic development. If poaching and illegal wildlife trade continues to prevail, it would dramatically impact Africa's tourism industry and ultimately its economy. This is why it is highly essential to take concerted efforts on a global scale to minimize poaching and wildlife trade through diplomatic and military means.

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