African elephants on the verge of extinction—blame China or Africa?

Recently, a Kenya conservationist Paula Kahumbu published an article on CNN, titled “We don’t buy panda products, so Chinese should keep hands off our elephants”, directly pointing at the biggest ivory consuming country.

She said due to the endless demand from China, the wild elephants are on the verge of extinction. Although numerous efforts were put in to saving wild elephants, unless the leading consumer of ivory- China- commits to put a halt on ivory trade, elephants will be doomed.  I believe her point probably is the mainstream view for elephant conservation every where except for China. However, what do Chinese actually think about it? To figure out this, let’s look at the official attitude from the China CITES committee and an online survey reflecting the general public’s opinion.

CHINA’s OFFCIAL ATTITUDE:

China’s high demand is not the only reason—responsibilities lie in every country

Meng Xianlin, deputy director of China’s Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office(濒管办常务副主席), the body of China’s CITES committee, who is also the representative at 2015 Kasane IWT Conference. He commented on African elephants conservation more than once in different occasions.  He stresses that China hopes that countries can improve coordination, do less finger pointing and make more joint efforts in fighting ivory smuggling globally and conserving elephant population.  The following are his comments made in 2013 and after Kasane Conference:

“We can’t simply attribute that to legal utilization and trade of ivory or to market demand. The fundamental solution to this problem must come from close cooperation among countries that hold elephant habitats, are transit points for shipments or are big consumers of ivory.”

“CITES came into force on 1st July 1975. The Pre-Convention wildlife product stockpiles held by western countries are still constantly being exported. In addition, 70‒80% of trophy hunting activities in Africa, including elephant hunting, which is legal in Zimbabwe, are undertaken by Europeans and Americans. The nature of trophy hunting activities should be re-evaluated, whether they are conservational or commercial. The prime responsibility lies in every country.”


Dr Meng’s remark acts as a whitewash, somehow blame other countries’ ivory policy rather than examine its own.  According to IFAW, China has replaced Japan, become the biggest ivory consuming country in the world, in which illegal amount is 6 times of legal one! China insisted it has the most stringent ivory policy, which can effectively regulate the market. However, the above data doesn’t agree at all. IFAW’s research showed it is a common practice that the licensed ivory shops usually secretly sell the illegal smuggled ivory with the shield of its legal license. The endless demand in China stimulates rampant poaching in another continent.

Poll: When the buying stops, the killing can too.

Tecent, the Chinese news portal started an online opinion poll on whether China should be responsible for the African elephants’ tragedy. Till now, more than 50,000 people voted, among which, 61% believed China is the one to blame, while 39% disagree.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 15.33.21

Does China endangers African elephants?_ poll by Tecent

Those who disagree, argue that African countries fail to protect their own elephants. They should not blame their own faults to other countries. If poachers do not kill elephants for the pecuniary benefit, then no matter how big the demand is in China, there should be no ivory in markets to offer.  It is unfair to blame China if the sourcing countries cannot halt domestic poaching first. Other pro-trade parties interpret from an economic perspective, they believe it is the “zero poaching” policy itself to blame. The stringent ivory policy makes the ivory products “scarce”, which increases the trade cost also stimulates even larger demand.  BTW, I think this “economic illustration” is completely BS. I will blog about economic analysis of illegal wildlife trade in the future. Please Stay tuned: D

The poll result brings some pleasant comfort: majority of the general public believed in “when the buying stops, the killing can too.” China saved pandas from extinction, recovered Tibenten Antelope to 30,000 by 2014. China is capable and responsible to save African elephants. Reducing domestic demand and stronger law enforcement will be the next step.

Stay wild xxx

 

 

 

 

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Laos Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone: Raid in response to EIA’s Sin City report

After EIA exposing the rampant illegal wildlife trade in Laos Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GT SEZ) in its latest report,  the Laos government immediately operated a raid to crack down on the illegal sale and consumption of wildlife. In this “lawless playground”, restaurants openly sell stir fry tiger meat and tiger bone wine. Inside of the casino, numerous pieces of ivory bangles, carved tusks display in front of these gamblers.  Has this situation truly changed? Please see the news posted on the GT SEZ official website, translated as follows.

However, the news did not disclose the detailed law enforcement, i.e. how many pieces of wildlife products were confiscated or what’s the next step of it. Let’s hope this is not just a PR work.Stay wild.xxx

GT SEZ cracks down on the illegal sale and consumption of wild animals and its products. 

 31-03-2015

On 23rd March 2015, the GT SEZ convened a team comprising of the police, army, commerce and the relevant personnel from the Kings Roman Group and conducted an impromptu raid at Chinatown, Lao-China Friendship Street, farmers’ market, the riverside shops and restaurants. The aim of the raid is to check for illegal rearing, sale and consumption of wildlife as well as the illegal sale of wildlife products.

The raid was carried out in accordance to the relevant Laos national laws and regulations related to the SEZ. The infractions uncovered during the raid would result in its immediate rectification and the products seized were turned over and dealt with by the relevant authorities. In addition, the people involved in the illegal activities will be dealt with by the law and penalties would be imposed. The GT SEZ will carry out wildlife protection work and continue to resolutely crack down on illegal wildlife-related criminal activities.

The Lao PDR protects wildlife in accordance to its laws, especially endangered wildlife, and that is the responsibility of the SEZ Management Committee. The next step for the GT SEZ Committee is to strengthen the management of the markets, prevent from happening again, the trade or killing of wildlife as well as its production, sales and consumption. “When the buying stops, the killing can too”, wildlife protection begins with us, do not buy, sell, kill wildlife and its products. Let us work together to care for wildlife by creating a beautiful and harmonious home.

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老挝金三角经济特区依法打击非法出售、食用野生动物及制品专项整治行动
作者:liangge 日期:2015年03月31日 来源:liangge 浏览:70 次

     2015年3月23日,老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会召集公安、国防军、工商管理处以及金木棉集团有限公司相关部门,对唐人街、老中友谊街、农贸市场、江边广场等区域的商铺、餐馆进行了突击检查,本次检查重点是非法饲养出售、食用野生动物和非法制售野生动物制品的违法行为。

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此次突击检查是根据老挝国家相关法律和特区相关条例来执行,对于在检查过程中出现的问题特区管理委员会勒令其及时整改,对收缴到的违法违禁品将上缴国家相关部门做进一步处理,并对违法违禁人员做出相应的法律制裁和处罚。野生动物保护作为老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会一项常态化工作必将持续的进行下去,坚决打击区域内针对野生动物的违法犯罪行为。

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老挝人民民主共和国是法制社会主义国家,依法保护野生动物,特别是涉危野生动物是特区管理委员会义不容辞的责任。下一步老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会将加强市场管理,杜绝买卖和杀害野生动物及制作、出售、食用野生动物制品的违法行为发生。“没有买卖,就没有杀害”,保护野生动物从我们身边做起,拒绝买卖、杀害野生动物及出售、食用野生动物制品。让我们共同携手关爱野生动物,创造美好和谐家园。

Is Wechat’s action on illegal wildlife trade just a hide-and-seek trick?

Hello, this is my very first blog. I want to talk about the China’s rampant online wildlife products and the influence of the Wechat recent action on banning the illegal wildlife trade.

This week, the mobile chat app Wechat, also known as the leading social media platform for online wildlife trade has finally taken action. It exposed 168 accounts that were allegedly associated with illegal wildlife sales, including the sales of ivory, mammoth ivory, rhino horns and helmeted hornbills. These accounts will be closed for 30 days. Wechat claimed they would work closely with scientific institutions and relevant NGOs and send out a clear message that Wechat has zero tolerance for illegal wildlife online sales. It also encourages users to report abuse once found wildlife products for sale.

Rhino horn carved ornament for sale on Wechat (picture from Wechat official weibo)

Ivory carved Buddha amulet for sale on Wechat (picture from Wechat official weibo)

This is an encouraging small step, given the contexts that Wechat as China’s largest mobile social media sent out a clear message to the public and set up a positive example.  I can see on Weibo many NGOs and activists forwarded this news and celebrated on that. However, the penalty of a 30-day suspension is far away from  adequate in my opinion. The 30-day suspension is more like a hide-and-seek game and these accounts are likely to be active again after 30 days. Once closed, the cost of setting up new accounts and keeping posting is very minimal. A conservationist I knew, had told me one of the sellers he has been tracking requested his current subscribers to switch to another account and the streams of offers continues as per normal.

For Wechat, a mobile app company, what else can it do? It is not the forestry police, it does not have the enforcement authority or even the capacity to verify authenticity of sale or products on offer. The current voluntary report abuse system is totally relying on users. It is fragmented and has little power to deter crime.  I am expecting the actual enforcement to take place that the forestry police work with the relevant interest parties together to effectively shut down these online hubs.

To give you guys a sense of the rampant online sales of wildlife products, let’s have a look at a recent report, TRAFFIC claimed social media had became the new heavens for the wildlife sales, with around 2000 monthly new added advertisements, in which most lead to social media for the final transaction.

Number of total illegal wildlife product advertisements in monitored Chinese-language websites (January 2012-September 2014) © TRAFFIC

We can see the online advertisements dropped a lot from 2013 thanks to a series of collaborative operations with traditional e-commerce giants: Alibaba, Tecent, Jingdong etc. Well, it’s hard to imagine what was it like before  2013.  Recently, the logistics industries also joint force in this war. With all of these efforts from different sectors, the key comes back to the China’s enforcement. It is the only force can take the lead in combating the illegal wildlife trade and engage all of these sectors.

I will keep a close eye on the follow-up enforcement if there is any. Stay wild xxx