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Tanzania’s Ivory Problem More Than Chinese Diplomatic Bags

Tanzania’s ivory problem more than Chinese diplomatic bags

November 10, 2014

Elephant skull in the Selous (c) EIA


A major report revealing details of large-scale ivory smuggling from Tanzania to China was released last week by EIA. The report continues to make headlines, with most stories pegged to an allegation by Tanzanian traders that members of the Chinese president’s delegation had purchased illegal ivory in Tanzania.

Let’s be clear here – the main thrust of the report was to document and expose the involvement of organised criminal syndicates, comprised of resident Chinese and local Tanzanians, in the illegal trade in ivory. Through speaking to those involved directly in this illegal trade during a series of field trips to Africa and China in 2014, 2010 and 2006, EIA was able to compile testimonies of Tanzanian ivory traders that they have supplied ivory to Chinese officials. The illegal ivory was then said to be taken out in diplomatic bags – one trader was caught on camera saying he had personally loaded ivory onto a plane carrying Chinese state officials.

Zanzibar Port, Tanzania, September 2014 (c) EIA lo

The news about the diplomatic bag incident may be eye-catching but it is not new – Chinese media also reported similar testimony in 2012. Fixing solely on this could lead readers and viewers to miss the bigger picture. The report’s key message, drawn from various investigations over the past decade, is that ivory smuggling from Tanzania is being carried out by Chinese-led transnational organised criminal networks and that enforcement needs to be stepped up to tackle this systematic problem.

For the first time, EIA revealed in great detail how these Chinese-led smuggling networks operate across borders from Africa to China. The clandestine business in Tanzania is controlled by Chinese businessmen based in southern China, and mediated by their families and friends in Tanzania, particularly Zanzibar. The trade would be impossible without the collusion of local Tanzanians – in fact, they either front the business as poachers, ivory traders and logistics agents, or back the criminality by abuse of official status.

One member of a criminal network told EIA investigators that even though recent enforcement has dismantled some ivory smuggling networks, a few remain active. He mentioned one boss in particular who succeeded in moving more than 10 containers, each with an estimated two to three tonnes of ivory, to China in 2013. Put in this context, the ivory that reached China via diplomatic bags is most likely a very small fraction compared to the ivory smuggled back systematically by major syndicates.

In 2014, EIA observed ivory was no longer as openly on sale in Tanzania as in previous years. No doubt, the criminal networks that have done so, survive and remain active so by learning from the mistakes of others. Revealing details about their cloak of invisibility and the use of Tanzanians to carry out operations, the network member stressed that a well-executed plan is at the root of successful operations. Those who followed their plans well only saw one of every 20 containers seized. Even when seizures happen, the bosses usually remain at large, he added, referring to the November 2013 seizure in the Tanzanian capital when three Chinese persons were arrested.

EIA has collated information from a number of investigations, reports on seizures and other sources, such as shipping routes, smuggling methods and trading hotspots. The report, Vanishing Point PDF, compiles all this information to illustrate the underlying cause Tanzania’s vanishing elephant herds. The country has lost two-thirds of its elephants in recent years due to poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

EIA has also withheld additional information and prepared confidential briefings which have been provided to enforcement authorities in China and Tanzania. EIA urges both countries to join hands in tackling the criminal networks and ultimately cease all ivory trade.

Vicky Lee
Trade & Policy Analyst



Elephant skull in the Selous (c) EIA



11月6日一早,伦敦的环境调查署(EIA)发布了一份重要报告 PDF, 揭露了大批象牙如何被不法分子从坦桑尼亚走私到中国的犯罪细节。从事这项非法贸易的坦桑尼亚人称,在坦桑尼亚非法购买象牙的客户中,有中国国家主席代表团 的成员。这一报道因此而持续发酵,成为各大媒体的头条;伦敦办公室的工作人员也不停地接到电话,大多数都在询问关于中国“高访团”非法购买象牙的事宜。

环境调查署于2006年、2010年和2014年多次探访非洲和中国,并与从事非法象牙贸易的个人进行了直接对话。在坦桑尼亚和赞比亚,若干 个当地主要象牙商贩在不同年份告诉环境调查署,他们曾将象牙卖给中国官员,这些人据称使用了外交豁免渠道将象牙带回中国——其中有一人甚至称曾亲自将象牙 送上中国政府的飞机。所有这些与商贩的会面均有影像凭证。

Zanzibar Port, Tanzania, September 2014 (c) EIA lo




2014年,一个属于上述犯罪集团的成员告诉环境调查署的调查员,尽管最近的打击行动确实铲除了一些象牙走私网络,但还是有几个相当活跃。他 特别提到一个老板曾在2013年成功向中国运送了十多个集装箱,在每个箱子里都装载了多达2至3吨的象牙。与这些大型犯罪组织走私象牙的情况相比较,通过 高访团 到达中国的象牙应该只是冰山一角。

2014年,环境调查署发现,象牙已经不再像前几年那样在坦桑尼亚公开出售。无疑,侥幸逃脱的犯罪网络会吸取同行的教训并作出策略调整。上述 名犯罪成员还爆料了犯罪集团如何利用坦桑尼亚当地人来掩盖其犯罪的行为的种种细节。他强调,严格执行计划是一切成功犯罪的基础,那些严格遵照计划的犯罪行 动成功率极高,平均每走私20个集装箱,被查获的只有1箱。他还补充道,就算事情败露,老板们也往往能够逍遥法外,比如2013年11月在坦桑尼亚首都抓 获了3个中国人(来自其家乡,并属于一个类似的团伙),但老板已经逃回中国。根据他的总结,犯罪成功的秘诀在于“周密的计划”和“耐心”——金钱建立和维 系犯罪网络至关重要,而走私货运需要等待时机不能草率行事。




李 维琪


Posted on: November 10, 2014

Estonian Osprey Tiiu Is Now In The Ivory Coast ( Photo: National Geographic)

Photo: An osprey preparing to dive

National Geographic: China’s And Hong Kongs Infamous And Shadowy Ivory Trade


OPINION: Hong Kong’s Infamous and Shadowy Ivory Trade

By Alex Hofford

It is a little known fact that the blame for the elephant poaching crisis of the 1980s, which resulted in the global ivory ban of 1989, can be laid squarely at the feet of the Hong Kong ivory traders. And now they’re at it again.

At a time when it has been scientifically proven that Africa lost 100,000 elephants from 2010 through 2012, no one in Hong Kong is questioning why the city’s ivory traders are still clinging onto their old stocks of ivory, which should have been depleted long ago.

It’s a moral outrage that these old men, who have had more than 25 years to clear out their pre-1989 ban ivory stocks, are still holding onto them.

Or are they simply pulling the wool over the eyes of the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and topping up their existing stocks of pre-1989 convention ivory with illegally smuggled ivory fresh off the boat from Mombasa?

Hong Kong Ivory Seizures on the Increase

The recent spate of ivory seizures intercepted by the Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department with alarming and increasing regularity at Hong Kong’s port and airport would seem to suggest as much.


Confiscated ivory from Ivory Coast in Africa is seen at the Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department Ports and Maritime Command Centre, Kwai Chung, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 03 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.
Confiscated ivory from Ivory Coast in Africa is seen at the Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department Ports and Maritime Command Centre, Kwai Chung, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 03 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.


It’s a mystery to wildlife conservationists and animal welfare advocates in Hong Kong that with such high demand from the surging number of Chinese tourists coming here, many of whom have woefully low awareness of the poaching crisis in Africa, the total amount of “legal” ivory in the hands of the trade has barely moved more than a few kilos in the past three years.

According to Hong Kong government statistics, it was 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012, and 117.1 tonnes in 2013. Why isn’t this stockpile going down?

It’s an open secret that many tourists who come to Hong Kong smuggle ivory products back home. Wildlife crime is still not being taken seriously in this Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Fines and penalties for ivory trafficking remain low, as can be seen by the paltry, “slap-on-the-wrist” sentences of six months handed down by a Hong Kong magistrate to 16 Vietnamese ivory traffickers caught red-handed at Hong Kong airport in June.


Click on chart to enlarge it
Click on chart to enlarge it


Let’s be clear: Hong Kong people aren’t buying this stuff. Tourists are indirectly fueling an ivory trade that forms an integral part of the global illegal wildlife trade—the fourth largest type of illegal trafficking after drugs, arms, and human beings.

Hong Kong is not immune from the scourge of Islamic terrorism, and many consumers are unaware that by buying an ivory trinket from a store in Mong Kok, Sheung Wan, or North Point, they could just be financing terrorist militias in Africa like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, or Lord’s Resistance Army.

The numbers on the WildLifeRisk graph show that Hong Kong ivory traders are topping up their supposed legal stocks with freshly poached ivory from Africa.


A computer monitor belonging to a Hong Kong ivory trader shows ivory tusks being weighed; Hong Kong; China; 21 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.
A computer monitor belonging to a Hong Kong ivory trader shows ivory tusks being weighed; Hong Kong; China; 21 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.


An unnamed ivory trader is seen in a warehouse in Hong Kong on 21 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.
An unnamed ivory trader is seen in a warehouse in Hong Kong on 21 October 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.

We at Hong Kong for Elephants doubt that Hong Kong’s AFCD is carrying out much more than very cursory inspections of the keeping premises of the ivory stock held by the 447 anonymous holders of ivory possession licenses. Does AFCD go deeper than merely checking whether or not those licenses are up-to-date? We doubt it.

Hong Kong Should Step Up

The unfolding crisis affecting Africa’s iconic megafauna is a cause for concern for all, and Hong Kong does have a role to play as a responsible global player.

Unfortunately, these days it is not only the sharks that we need to look out for. We also need each and everyone to stop buying ivory. The Hong Kong government could do so much more to raise awareness about this urgent issue. They could do a lot worse than start by legislating an ivory trade ban to save the magnificent African elephant before it’s too late.

Alex Hofford is founder of Hong Kong for Elephants and a wildlife campaigner for WildAid. @alexhofford


A photo made available 19 June 2013 shows a rhinoceros figurine made out of ivory at a store selling ivory products in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, 19 June 2013. Dr Poole, who is based in Kenya, is China to meet with zoo directors, government officials and animal welfare groups to discuss the ivory issue. More than 7 per cent of the world's elephants were killed for their tusks in 2012, which is the highest recorded amount, according to the researcher. 40 per cent of ivory poached in Africa is bound for China, which sis still the biggest market for elephant tusks. Poole is urging the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong to ban the trade. Copyright Alex Hofford.
A photo made available 19 June 2013 shows a rhinoceros figurine made out of ivory at a store selling ivory products in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, 19 June 2013. Copyright Alex Hofford.

EIA New Report: Shocking 100 000 Elephants Were Killed In Africa Between 2010 And 2012, Most Ivory Going To China

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Banning ivory: The why and the howA shocking new peer-reviewed study documented that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory from 2010 to 2012, and that a burgeoning illegal ivory market has continued to feed high, unsustainable rates of killing into 2013 and 2014. Africa’s forest elephants are being wiped out, and the continued viability of the continent-wide population is now in doubt.The potential extinction risk of one of the world’s most iconic species demands our attention, regardless of its context. But there is more. As the presidents of Tanzania, Gabon, Namibia and Togo candidly confirmed at the recent U.S.-Africa Summit, the international criminal networks that are orchestrating the killing, gathering, transporting and selling of ivory other wildlife parts are corrupting officials in their governments and funding terrorist organizations. National security also is at stake.What can be done to stop the killings? Clearly, as the administration has recognized, a comprehensive strategy that addresses the entire supply chain is needed. It must begin in Africa by stemming the killings and working with local communities to protect their wildlife. But so long as there is a strong market pull for illegal ivory in Asia, Europe and the U.S., criminal syndicates will find a way for the killings to continue.

Addressing the demand side of the elephant crisis means stigmatizing new demand for ivory and enforcing the international ban on ivory trading. Only a ban on commercial trade in ivory can protect elephants when they are on the razor’s edge. This is why the U.S. Congress responded to a previous spike of elephant killings in the 1980s by slapping an indefinite moratorium − effectively, a ban − on the import of ivory under African Elephant Conservation Act of 1989. The international community followed suit in 1990, enacting a ban on the commercial import and export of ivory and ivory products under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These actions cooled off the ivory market and enabled elephant populations to rebound.

Tragically, however, enforcement attention on the ivory ban has faded over time …

Full story at

#elephants #ivory #Africa #China

Image: Elephant matriarch Hope, poached for her ivory in Kenya, 2011 (c) EIA

States are eyeing stiffer ivory laws amid a surge in elephant poaching

Originally posted on SAVES Club:

In an effort to stop a recent surge in elephant poaching, states are moving to impose stricter bans on the sale of ivory, building on federal administrative actions taken this year.

California is the second-largest market for ivory in the U.S., after New York. Above, Thai officials display confiscated smuggled African elephant tusks during a news conference in Bangkok in July. (Rungroj Yongrit, European Pressphoto Agency)

New York and New Jersey have already taken steps recently to tighten restrictions on the sale of ivory, and environmental groups say their next target is California.

“We believe that California law needs to be fixed,” said Elly Pepper, a policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York environmental advocacy group.

I was in San Francisco walking down the streets and there’s a shocking amount of ivory in that city, and the same is true for L.A.
- Elly Pepper, a…

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Kenyan Officer Caught With Billion Dollars Of Worth Of Ivory


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Kenya: Police officer among two arrested with Sh6.2 million elephant tusks in Narok

Kenya Wildlife Service officials in Narok County nabbed two suspects among them an administration police officer with two elephant tusks worth Sh6.2million in Ilkerin Loita area on the outskirt of world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok County on Sunday evening.

The officer is in charge of Loita Administration Police in Narok South Sub County.

Narok North Deputy OCPD Paul Cheruiyot said the two were arrested following a tip-off from members of the public who alerted the KWS officers.

Cheruiyot said the KWS officers posed as potential customers before ambushing and arrested the suspects with the 62 Kgs of ivory.


#Kenya #Africa #ivory #elephants

Image: Tusks recovered from the two suspects, via Visa mer


Peer-reviewed Paper Says All Ivory Market Must Close


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Peer-reviewed paper says all ivory markets must close

The message is simple: to save elephants, all ivory markets must close and all ivory stockpiles must be destroyed, according to a new peer-reviewed paper by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The paper says that corruption, organized crime, and a lack of enforcement make any legal trade of ivory a major factor contributing to the demise of Africa’s elephants.

* EIA has long pressed for a complete ban on all ivory sales and markets – learn more at

Appearing in the August 7th online edition of the journal Conservation Biology, the paper says that if we are to conserve significant wild populations of elephants across all regions of Africa, all domestic and international ivory markets need to be closed. In addition, government stockpiles of ivory, currently scattered around the world, need to be destroyed since they are known to be significant sources of ivory leaking into the illegal trade. According to the paper’s author, corruption undermines all aspects of controls as long as a legal market remains.

“If we are to conserve remaining wild populations of elephants, we must close all markets because, under current levels of corruption, they cannot be controlled in a way that does not provide opportunities for illegal ivory being laundered into legal markets,” said the paper’s author, Elizabeth Bennett, WCS Vice President for Species Conservation.

Full story at

#ivory #China #Japan #elephants

Hallmark is selling ivory….as a perfect 14th anniversary present

Originally posted on GarryRogers Nature Conservation:

Source:  Condofire

12f15b97-b2ad-44f9-a2c8-a6fb2d40dba6“Hallmark is promoting IVORY as a 14th wedding anniversary gift on their website and posting this blatant falsehood: “Many pieces of beautiful jewelry showcase ivory shed naturally from animals. Look online for options.” at this link:“ACTION: Please EMAIL or CALL Hallmark to educate them that ALL ivory products come from slaughtered elephants and much ivory for sale is ILLEGAL ivory!
Email Hallmark at this link:
Phone Hallmark at this TOLL-FREE number: 1-800-HALLMARK (1-800-425-5627)
Post on Hallmark‘s FB page at this link: or Email these three paragraphs:

“Your website has ivory listed as the 14th wedding anniversary gift, an outdated and today often ILLEGAL item. Furthermore, Hallmark is spreading the blatant falsehood that ivory jewelry comes from ivory that is “shed naturally from animals”. No, Hallmark, elephants’ tusks do not fall out naturally! Elephants are brutally poached for their tusks with poisoned…

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EIA :Working To End New Zealand’s Bloody Ivory Trafficking

Working to end New Zealand’s role in the blood ivory trade

July 14, 2014

Far away from Africa where an elephant is killed every 15 minutes, New Zealand’s legal domestic ivory trade is booming and authorities have confiscated more than 700 pieces of illegal ivory since the 1989 global ivory trade ban. Will the New Zealand Government commit to an ivory crush event, a public awareness campaign and a ban on the ivory trade altogether? In today’s guest blog for EIA, Environmental Policy Analyst Fiona Gordon talks about her inspiration to endeavour make this happen.


New Zealand children present a banner with children’s drawings of elephants to Minister of Conservation, the Hon Dr Nick Smith, at the International March for Elephants, Wellington, New Zealand, October 4, 2013  (c) Shane Bayley


My dad always read his monthly National Geographic from cover to cover. I couldn’t quite fathom his diligence when I was a teenager but I have definitely inherited his curiosity and passion for learning, his need to be informed of things happening far beyond my doorstep.

When I first read about the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, I was shocked to learn that people were still killing elephants for their tusks. I’d thought the ivory trade was a thing of the past. At the same time, I was comforted by the wonderful work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her dedicated team.

That comfort was fleeting, disappearing with the publication of Bryan Christy’s Ivory Worship. Along with the raw images by photographer Brent Stirton, this article exposed the illegal ivory trade in a way I’d never seen before. The extent of the trade, the consumer greed, the impact on elephants – it was so disheartening.

Orphan elephant Lemoyian (c) David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

My children and I adopted little orphan Lemoyian at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and felt in some small way we were doing our bit to help save the elephants.

The brutal killing of Qumquat and her family in 2012 was a turning point for me. This famous matriarch was born in l968 and had been studied for years by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. She and her family were photographed, calm and trusting of their human admirers, by Nick Brandt of the Big Life Foundation just 24 hours before they were slaughtered. Fortunately, Quanza, Qumquat’s latest calf, was spared and is now in the care of the DSWT.

I wondered what New Zealand was actively doing to ensure our children will grow up in a world with elephants – not in zoos or safari parks, but in the wild. To be blunt, it appears that saving Africa’s elephants is not high on New Zealand’s Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) priority list in terms of resources.

We have an excellent international reputation for border control and enforcement, and for legislation dealing with illegal wildlife trade. But, like any other country, New Zealand appears focused on issues that could directly affect its own native species. It seems there is also a reluctance to involve ourselves in ‘other people’s business’. While such an approach may be understandable, is it acceptable when the elephant is clearly a globally iconic species?

Elephants are everywhere in New Zealand – in bookshops, toy shops, baby clothing and linen shops, on nappies, tissue boxes, plasterboard brands and even a winery … the list goes on. Clearly, New Zealanders place value in Africa’s elephants, so perhaps we should make it our business to do our bit to help elephants survive.

Drawing of elephants by New Zealand under-fives

New Zealand children under five happily draw elephants without assistance – on a visit, they proudly showed off their drawings, telling me all about the “four big stompy feet”, a “long trunk for squirting water” and “big flappy ears” – testament to the elephant’s global iconic status.

Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, and Auckland joined more than 35 cities across the globe on October 4, 2013, taking the International March for Elephants straight to Parliament. The call to ban the ivory trade, crush the confiscated ivory stockpile and take other actions was received positively by Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith, but no doubt it would need to be backed by ‘hard data’ on the local ivory trade too.

Several official information requests later and I received more than 24 years worth of trade data to look at. A Report on the New Zealand Trade in Ivory 1980 – 2012 (April 2014), which I authored, found some interesting facts:
New Zealand ivory trade report cover• Over 24 years, more than 700 pieces of ivory have been confiscated by our authorities, including 80 tusks, 564 carvings and numerous ivory pieces and teeth. Forty-nine items were confiscated in 2012 alone;
• The first conviction for illegal ivory trading in New Zealand occurred in 2013 and included an element of gain and investment;
• New Zealand’s re-exports of ivory have increased and our imports for trade have increased recently too. On a per capita basis, data indicates that New Zealand exceeds the USA as an ivory carving importer between 2009-12;
• The domestic ivory market reportedly continued to ‘boom’ in 2012, with competition continuing to drive prices well above estimated values.

Just a few months ago, fresh charges were laid against a 61-year-old man for illegally importing 31 pieces of elephant ivory and a recent IFAW report on NZ on-line trading, Click to Delete, noted few ivory items included evidence of age or source.

New Zealand is a small nation of only 4.5 million people in the South Pacific, about as far away from Africa’s elephants as you can get. We may play a small part in the demise of the elephant, but the hard data shows that we play one nevertheless.

New Zealand can choose to destroy its confiscated ivory stockpile, implement demand-reduction campaigns and ban the ivory trade entirely.

The Government’s Select Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade are currently considering a petition from Auckland teacher Virginia Woolf, asking that the New Zealand ivory trade be completely banned. My report on the issue provides supporting documentation for that petition and also recommends stockpile destruction. Our hope is that the petition and the report combined will have provided enough evidence for these proactive steps to be taken by New Zealand.

Every piece of ivory – large or small – counts towards the demise of the elephant. Every effort to reduce demand in every nation – large or small – counts towards saving it.

Awareness is vital, as is providing people with the opportunity to act.

You can:
• Join the NZ Campaign Say No To ALL Ivory Trade NOW
• Send an automated letter directly to the New Zealand Government
• Watch and share the infographic When the buying stops the killing can too
• Sign the 96 Elephants pledge



A Critical Petition to Sanction Thailand for Ivory Trafficking

Originally posted on GarryRogers Nature Conservation:

elephant poaching in KenyaPlease click and sign the petition now.

“Poachers just shot one of the world’s largest elephants, Satao, then hacked his 100 pound tusks out of his face with a machete. At the current rate of killing, elephants may be extinct in 15 years, but this week if we act now we have an amazing chance to crack down on the illegal trade that fuels the slaughter.

“Each day, 50 regal elephants are butchered just to make dinky ivory trinkets! The main culprit for this carnage is Thailand — the fastest growing market for unregulated ivory. And tomorrow the international body created to protect endangered species has a chance to sanction Thailand until it cracks down on the elephant killers. Experts fear Thai leaders are mounting a propaganda campaign to dodge penalties, but it just takes Europe and the US to ignore their noise and spearhead action to end…

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