The words deafening silence come to mind when the official response to petitions and pleas by global conservation organizations to the Chinese government is described over the country’s deplorable record in illegal ivory and rhino horn trade. In the cross hairs for the past two years for the hunger and greed of her citizens for the white gold, aka blood ivory, the Chinese government has done little to strengthen enforcement or join the international community to halt the escalating poaching of elephant and rhino on the African continent, as if covertly sending the message it is alright to their electorate and rich party funders. 221 tusks, representing at least 111 elephants slaughtered for their ivory, were seized at the border with China in Vietnam earlier this week, destined to reach buyers inside China, where demand is fuelling the gruesome wholesale butchering of entire elephant herds.
Several people, including two Chinese, were arrested when vigilant customs officials intercepted the shipment of contraband cargo inside Vietnam, bringing global seizure in 2011 to a new record high. Shipments often originate in Southern but also Eastern Africa, to where DNA analysis has in the past tracked impounded tusks, but is often smuggled, concealed amongst other cargo like wood or fish, via Mozambique, Tanzania or Kenya. The latter two have stepped up surveillance in ports and airports and in particular in Kenya is vigilance said to be at the highest with regular arrests of passengers transiting in Nairobi, carrying illegal ivory purchased elsewhere in their baggage.
Conservation groups, when told of this latest seizure of blood ivory, have renewed their calls for immediate strengthening of laws in Africa to serve as a real deterrent against commercial scale poaching of rhino, elephant and other game, with minimum sentences recommended between 10 to 15 years and fines of a multiple of the value of the ivory confiscated. Said one such source in Nairobi early this morning: this has to be fast tracked now by parliament because right now, the fines are peanuts and suspects get out on bail and just go back to poach more. We are ill equipped to deal with this problem and in so far we are making it easier. This must stop now or we are losing all our elephant and in the process lose our tourism industry. Sentiments based in true fact, so the time to act is now, and not alone but hand in hand with all the other countries affected by wildlife poaching from East to South to West Africa.
Compiled by Jackie