Ivory carvings depicting various sex acts on sale in Bangkok, November 2010. Photo: Thomas Quine via Flickr.com.
Give elephants a future!
24th January 2014
Protestors will gather on Saturday at the Chinese Embassy in London to call for an end to the global ivory trade, writes Dominic Dyer. But it's not just China - the UK must also pay its part to save Africa's elephants.
The entire international community has been slow to react to the growing slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Africa.
Ivory is known as white gold in China - the country that accounts for around 70% of global ivory demand.
On the black market across China ivory is trading for $7,000 a kilo and the insatiable demand is rapidly increasing the level of elephant poaching in Africa.
According to the international wildlife charity Wildaid in a report published in 2013, many Chinese people believe ivory can be taken from an elephant without causing harm or death, like antlers from a deer.
This might be true in principle. But it's not the way the highly organised, well-armed poaching gangs operate in modern day Africa - as thousands of bloody elephant corpses testify.
China is uncomfortable
The Chinese Government is feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the global attention on its role in the ivory trade.
On 7th January, just two months after the US Government destroyed its ivory stockpiles, the Chinese Government destroyed over 6 tonnes of confiscated elephant tusks and luxury carvings in the city of Gurngzhou.
Conservationists in China and around the world welcomed this move which is seen by many as a major shift in the Governments approach to the ivory trade and trafficking of illegal wildlife products.
The demonstration at the Chinese Embassy in London on Saturday will be an opportunity for the public to respectfully encourage the Chinese Government to move towards a complete shut-down of the ivory trade - and protect the future of Africa's elephants.
A critical moment
Over the last year the media has been awash with stories of doom and gloom from Africa as the number of elephants and rhinos poached for their ivory and horn reach record levels.
We can be certain that if the insatiable demand for ivory and rhino horn from the rapidly developing Asian economies is not stopped, it will push elephants and rhinos towards extinction within our lifetime.
Demand from China has a big part to play in this catastrophe. But many other countries are also to blame. The entire international community has been slow to react to the growing slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Africa.
And in many cases they have taken decisions over the last decade, which have made the poaching situation worse. For too long the international community has caved in to pressure from certain African nations and China to release ivory stocks - supposedly to dampen demand.
But they have done this in defiance of warnings from conservationists and wildlife trade specialists. Their fear was that this 'legal' ivory would actually legitimise the ivory trade - and so stimulate demand, raise prices, and increase poaching.
Sadly the Jeremiahs have been proved right - as we can see from the dire situation that prevails today.
So what can be done?
In February the UK Government will host a high level summit on international wildlife crime chaired by the Foreign Secretary William Hague, to seek answers to the essential question: what can be done to stop the slaughter?
They have been too slow in threatening trade sanctions against China, Vietnam and Thailand despite all the evidence that the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn is growing rapidly in these countries and leading to a huge increase in poaching of Africa's remaining elephants and rhinos.
Despite huge expenditure on military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries, the international community has left African nations to take on sophisticated poaching operations with poorly paid and equipped rangers.
Hundreds of these brave front line wildlife protectors have lost their lives in the battle against the poachers in the last 5 years alone. One ranger was very recently killed in the Virunga National Park, Congo.
Where are the aid funds for wilidlife protection?
Substantial foreign aid budgets from G8 nations that run into hundreds of billions of pounds for Africa, have no funds earmarked for anti poaching activities.
Yet poaching has a huge economic impact on people in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, where wildlife tourism is of critical importance.
Huge amounts of money and resources have been spent in the post 9-11 era in the name of international security to deal with the threat of terrorism from groups such as Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab.
However until recently, it had gone largely unnoticed that many of these groups have been trading in ivory and rhino horn in order to help finance their terrorist operations in Africa and around the world.
The recent terrorist attack on the Westgate Gate Mall in Nairobi by Al Shabaab is a prime example.
The UK can make a difference!
As a key player in the European Union, Commonwealth, UN and G8 the UK is in a unique position to learn from the mistakes of the past and to push forward a global strategy which will ultimately save Africa's remaining elephants and rhinos before we reach the point of no return.
To help achieve this crucial objective the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary need to show that the UK is willing to lead the way in the fight against the ivory and rhino horn trade, by making best use of our global leadership position, expertise and resources.
Care for the Wild is therefore calling on David Cameron and William Hague to table a clear declaration of UK Government (UKG) action in the following areas at the start of the Summit:
International Aid Budget - pledge a minimum of 0.5% of its international aid budget to tackling illegal wildlife trade.
Education - use the expertise of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Council and UK Trade and Investment to work with NGO's to deliver a programme of consumer demand reduction initiatives for wildlife products around the world.
Military Expertise - use the expertise, manpower and equipment in its armed forces (both serving and retired military personnel) to support African nations in their fight against the illegal poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa.
Wildlife Crime Units - give a clear long term public funding commitment to the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit, to increase their manpower and resources and extend their presence and capabilities across the UK to tackle international wildlife crime
Ivory stockpiles - give a clear declaration that it will oppose the future sale of ivory and rhino horn stockpiles by any nation and it will use its influence in the international community to ensure other countries support this position.
Mr Cameron, the time is now!
David Cameron is quite rightly under serious pressure from conservationists and the wider public over the coalition's poor national wildlife protection and environment record over the past three years.
If he really does want to salvage something from his "greenest government in a generation" agenda, now is the time to act on ivory and rhino horn poaching.
Dominic Dyer is Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild International. He will be speaking at the "Kill the Ivory Trade, not the Elephants," demonstration on Saturday 25th January 2014.
The peaceful demonstration begins at 11 am at the Chinese Embassy in London near Regents Park underground: 49-51 Portland Pl, London W1B 1JL and continues until 2pm.
It is organised by Action 4 Elephants with the support of Care for the Wild and the Environmental Investigation Agency.
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