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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…

View original 60 more words

China’s Insatiable Demand For Ivory Fuels Terrorism In Africa And The Middle East


The insatiable Chinese demand for ivory is fuelling violence and bloodshed across Africa and the Middle East, with militant groups such as al-Shabab and the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army using the “white gold” as a key source of funding.

The involvement of such groups in the illegal ivory trade has politicians and activists increasingly viewing the issue as a threat to national security, not just animal preservation.

A report published by the United Nations Environment Programme last week found the Lord’s Resistance Army made between US$4 million and US$12 million every year from trafficking ivory.

Joseph Kony, the group’s warlord leader, has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted in Uganda.

The report follows a speech by former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton last year in which she highlighted how militant groups including al-Shabab “fund their terrorist activities to a great extent from ivory trafficking”.

Ivory, most of which ends up on the market in Hong Kong and the mainland, provides these terrorist groups with hundreds of thousands of dollars that are used to finance militant activities, said Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant Action League and a former security and intelligence consultant.

“People must realise that behind a simple ivory trinket lies a long chain of blood and criminality,” said Crosta, who participated in an 18-month undercover investigation into the syndicates behind the illegal trade.

“I was offered ivory, weapons and even uranium. Ivory buyers need to understand the kind of people who engage in the trade,” said the Italian conservationist.

China is the world’s largest consumer market for ivory and many of the shipments transit in Hong Kong before being moved to the mainland. Estimates of the amount of illegal ivory destined for the Chinese market range from 60 to 90 per cent of the total supply leaving Africa.

Based on seizures, Crosta believes the actual figure is close to 80 per cent. Earlier this year Operation Cobra II, an Interpol-led international crackdown on wildlife crime, found that 200 out of the 350 cases investigated involved China.

The price of ivory in China has tripled to US$2,100 per kilogram over the past four years, making the increasingly scarce tusks a lucrative source of revenue for terrorist and militant groups.

One of the most organised of these groups is al-Shabab, a Somalia-based cell of al-Qaeda.

With an estimated strength of between 4,000 and 6,000 militants, the group is responsible for a host of killings, including the assassination of a Somali lawmaker on Thursday and the deaths of 67 people in an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in September.

Unlike the Lord’s Resistance Army and the janjaweed militia in Sudan – both of which actively hunt and kill elephants for their tusks – al-Shabab positions itself as a middleman and a buyer.

After receiving an order, al-Shabab will trigger its network of contacts in Kenya and Somalia to obtain a consignment, then use its smuggling expertise to move the ivory onto ships in Mombasa or Dar-es-Salaam, Crosta said.

“In Africa, al-Shabab is considered a good buyer – it pays well, pays on time and there are no jokes. Usually they arrange pick-ups in the middle of nowhere and move the ivory quickly offshore in skiffs, like with drugs,” Crosta said.

They have the capacity to buy between one and three tonnes of ivory every month and make huge profits that they then use to buy weapons, he added.

The issue will likely feature on the agenda when nations meet this week at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva.

Also up for discussion is the possibility of implementing a decision-making mechanism (DMM) that would provide pro-trade countries such as China and a number of African countries an avenue to legally buy and sell ivory.

“The DMM is a disaster waiting to happen to the last remaining African elephant populations,” said WildAid campaigner Alex Hofford. “It has been proven, time and again, that the legal ivory trade provides a cover for the illegal ivory trade.”

In 1999 and 2008, China was granted one-time legal purchases of ivory consignments overseen by an official state body. However, campaigners say ivory dealers are laundering illegal smuggled ivory into the much smaller legal market.

“The fundamental issue is that the abuse of the legal market is key,” said Environmental Investigation Agency executive director Mary Rice, who will be at this week’s meetings in Geneva.

“China’s position has been very strong in reducing demand for illegal ivory, but it still encourages legal ivory,” said Rice.

An official on the Chinese delegation to CITES did not respond to inquiries.

The discussion has never been more critical, with African elephants facing extinction within a decade.

“The illegal wildlife trade is a serious criminal industry worth more than £6 billion (HK$80 billion) each year. While threatening the future existence of a whole species, it devastates already vulnerable communities, drives corruption and undermines efforts to cut poverty,” said Martin Walley, International Wildlife Trade Campaign coordinator at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Ivory seizures in Hong Kong reached an all-time high of 8,041kg last year, up 43 per cent from 2012 and 300 per cent from 2003, according to figures from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

A spokesman for the customs department said it would maintain close contact with overseas and mainland enforcement agencies to prevent smuggling, but said there was “no evidence” Hong Kong had become a transit point for the ivory trade.

Follow Bryan on Twitter @bryanhimself

The Guardian: The Price Of Ivory Triples In China

A Hong Kong Customs officer displays seized ivory at the Hong Kong international airport, China, on 10 June 2014.A Hong Kong Customs officer displays seized ivory at the Hong Kong international airport, China, on 10 June 2014. Photograph: ALEX HOFFORD/EPA

The price of ivory taken from African elephants slaughtered for their tusks has tripled in the past four years in China, the world’s biggest market, conservationists said on Thursday.

“The surge in the price of ivory is driving a wave of killing of elephants across Africa that shows little sign of abating,” campaign group Save the Elephants said.

“With the ivory price in Africa a tenth of that reached in China, substantial profits are being generated for organised crime that fuels insecurity, corruption, and deprives local communities of valuable income.”

Researchers from the Kenyan-based group studying ivory sales in China said prices had risen for a kilogram of raw ivory from $750 (£437) in 2010 to $2,100 (£1225) in 2014.

This week wildlife group TRAFFIC warned that Thailand’s ivory market was “out of control” and that the number of ivory products on sale in Bangkok had nearly trebled in the past year.

Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants were lost to poachers every year between 2010 and 2012.

“Without concerted international action to reduce the demand for ivory, measures to reduce the killing of elephants for ivory will fail,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

“Although half a world away, China holds the key to the future of the African elephant.”

The group has also tracked ivory sales within Africa, discovering that Lagos in Nigeria, followed by Luanda in Angola, has the largest numbers of ivory trinkets on open sale.

Organised crime syndicates and rebel militia increasingly use poaching to fund insurgencies, reaping the benefits of multi-billion-dollar demand for ivory in China.

Kenya; Tanzania And Uganda Under UN Supervision For Illicit Ivory

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Kenya under UN scrutiny over illicit ivory trade

Kenya, alongside Tanzania and Uganda, will from Monday next week (July 7-11, 2014) be subjects of United Nations discussions in Geneva, Switzerland, over progress made in the fight against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade within the last one year.

The three are among eight countries in the spotlight at the 65th meeting of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Standing Committee is the second highest decision-making organ of CITES, and holds meetings to review decisions of the CITES Conference of Parties or its own.

Besides the three East African countries, the other countries of concern included China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

All the eight risk unspecified international sanctions after being put on notice by the 16th CITES Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Thailand last year. They were all required to take urgent measures to contain elephant poaching and ivory trafficking within a year.

The eight, which comprise primary source, transit and destination countries of global concern with regard to elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, submitted their national ivory action plans to the CITES Secretariat within the May 2013 deadline.

The CITES meeting will review the national plans and discuss next steps to stop illegal ivory trade, including whether additional countries should develop similar plans.


#Kenya #elephants #ivory

Image: An elephant mourns at the scene of a poached carcass, Samburu, Kenya, 2011 (c) EIA Visa mer

China’s Blood Ivory Bazaar

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China’s Blood Ivory Bazaar

- Beijing claims to oppose the illicit traffic in the tusks of elephants butchered by poachers. In fact, it’s created a booming market -

HONG KONG, China — The meeting took place in a private room in a Shenzhen restaurant. Within a navy blue duffel bag were clattering bone-hued beads, amulets, and bracelets.

He placed a disk in my hand, with a hole drilled near its rim and a red tassel dangling from it to assume the appearance of a lucky charm. It nearly covered the entirety of my palm and had a Chinese poem carved on one side, with a bull on the other. The cross-hatched Schreger pattern on its surface was unmistakably that of ivory. “That piece is ¥2,000 [$320],” he said. “Everything I sell is processed in my workshop. I hire skilled carvers, and we can handle bigger pieces too.” He removed the bubble wrap around a lump drawn from his bag and revealed a rotund Laughing Buddha, about eight inches tall with a hard white belly rolling forth. “This one is ¥24,500 [nearly $4,000].” He was disappointed that I was not ready to bargain. For a moment, I measured the risk of carrying that sack in public. He traveled alone. What if he was mugged as he left our meeting?

“Most of it is from Ethiopia,” he said. On the screen of his smartphone, he swiped through pictures of elephants lying on the ground, lifeless, a mixture of red earth and redder blood caked onto their bodies, tusks freshly severed by chain saws and hoisted like trophies by grinning, sweaty, dusty poachers. The shots serve as proof of sourcing for his clients. Blood ivory is a big business in China.

Ivory purchases are officially discouraged by the Chinese government. Token efforts to spread the message include billboard ads in Chinese airports denouncing the ivory trade, and SMS messages sent to Chinese tourists by their embassies when they visit certain African countries advising them to not bring any ivory home. Yet objects made from elephant tusks are still considered symbols of wealth and status. Some even think of ivory purchases as investments, or an alternate way to park cash, and believe that the value of their acquisitions will balloon in time. The demand for ivory remains high among a select community.

Full story at

#China #ivory #elephants #StopStimulatingDemand

Image (c) Alex Lee/Reuters Visa mer

Togos Top Ivory Dealer Gets Only Two Years In Jail

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Togo’s top ivory dealer only gets two years in jail

A shop owner dubbed “Le Patron” [The Boss] because of his status as Togo’s top ivory smuggler was jailed for two years on Wednesday for possessing more than 700kg of elephant tusks.

A judge in the Togolese capital Lome handed Emile N’Bouke, aged 58, the maximum sentence possible after he was found guilty of ivory trafficking, which has been banned worldwide since 1989.

N’Bouke, who was arrested in August last year, was told he would serve only 15 months but was also fined $10 300.

Two co-defendants, Guinean nationals Djifa Doumbouya and Moussa Cherif, who were arrested at the same time and found with between 3 and 6kg of ivory, were also jailed for two years and fined the same amount.

Cherif was found guilty in his absence and is currently the subject of an international arrest warrant.

State prosecutor Blaise Kanmanpene said the judge had taken into account the need to protect elephants but called on Togo to look again at its laws on ivory trafficking to provide for tougher sentences.

Full story at

Image: Recently seized ivory in Lome’s autonomous port (c) Emile Kouton/AFP

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Kenya: This Year’s Biggest Ivory Haul

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Kenya seizes 228 elephant tusks in year’s biggest ivory haul

Kenya’s government says it has seized illegal ivory which came from at least 114 elephants, its biggest find this year, in the port city of Mombasa.

One suspect was arrested in a raid on a warehouse which housed 228 tusks, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.

There is growing concern over ports in Kenya, Togo and Tanzania being used to export African ivory to Asian markets.

The demand for ivory is being driven by China and South-East Asia, where it used in traditional medicine.

“It’s the first seizure of this magnitude since the beginning of this year in Mombasa,” KWS spokesman Paul Muya told AFP news agency.

He said that authorities were still weighing the ivory and could not yet confirm its origin.

It was possible that the ivory originated from elsewhere in Africa and had been taken to Mombasa for export, a KWS official said.

In addition to the tusks, another 74 pieces of ivory were found.

Full story at

Image: The ivory seized in a raid on a warehouse in Mombasa on June 4, 2014 (c) AFP

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SA: Seized Ivory Points To Syndicates

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South Africa: Seized ivory ‘points to syndicate’

Cape Town – Ivory seized at a Table View storage building pointed to organised crime in South Africa, CapeNature biodiversity crime unit manager Paul Gildenhuys said under cross-examination in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

All ivory poaching in South Africa was syndicate-driven and the 3 232 African elephant tusks allegedly found in Cheng Jie Liang’s possession were no exception.

Liang is facing charges of illegal possession of elephant tusks and ivory products to the value of about R21 million, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Gildenhuys said he noticed distinct “M2” and “J” markings on some of the ivory which he had seen in other illegal poaching cases before. “We are dealing with a syndicate here.”

Some of the ivory had already been refined into finished products.

The trial continues …

Full story at

Image: Archive shot of seized ivory (c) EIA

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EIA Joins Call To Ban All Ivory In Hong Kong

EIA joins the call for Hong Kong to ban all ivory sales

May 15, 2014

On the eve of Hong Kong’s formal destruction today (Thursday) of about three tonnes of ivory – 10 per cent of its stockpile, the remaining 27 tonnes of which are due to be destroyed in a further dozen incinerations – EIA joined a coalition of 61 organisations to call on the Government of Hong Kong to ban all ivory sales.

Ivory on sale in Hong Kong (c) EIA


The letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying states: “We applaud the government for taking a brave step in January 2014 to commit to the destruction by incineration of 29.6 tonnes of confiscated elephant ivory seized in Hong Kong since 1976. However, we believe that this does not go far enough, and that more needs to be done to curb demand for ivory and effectively diminish illegal trade and elephant poaching.

“Hong Kong plays a key role in the global ivory trade. The city has been recognized as a major market and transit point for smuggled ivory by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which considers Hong Kong one of nine countries / regions of priority concern.

“The current catastrophic poaching crisis, the worst since the 1980s, is causing the killing of tens of thousands of elephants every year for the illegal ivory trade. Much of this ivory passes through Hong Kong illegally on the way to mainland China, where demand is surging. This demand is driven in large part by a new class of wealthy individuals, many of whom travel to Hong Kong as tourists to buy tax free luxury goods – including ivory and ivory products.

“Some Hong Kong ivory retailers have been exposed by the media to be actively undermining the conservation efforts of the Hong Kong government, international and local NGO communities, and a large segment of the Hong Kong public.

“Since this exposure, three ivory traders Chinese Arts & Crafts (Hong Kong) Ltd, Wing On Department Store and Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium have shown leadership in the industry and have all publicly renounced selling elephant ivory.

“Numerous reports have shown that the existing legal market for elephant and mammoth ivory is being used to launder ivory from poached elephants. Indeed, people around the world, who hold elephants dear to their hearts, depend on the Hong Kong government to take a responsible stand.

“In order to put a large dent in Chinese demand for ivory and ivory products and to effectively combat the illegal trade in elephant ivory, we believe that there is no better time than now to enact an urgent, comprehensive and permanent ban on all ivory sales in Hong Kong.”


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