TANZANIAN IVORY SEIZED IN VIETNAM
Only hours after news broke from Nairobi, that over 100 tusks were found at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, did yet more bad news emerge for the conservation fraternity, this time from Vietnam. Customs and security officials discovered 600 kilograms of blood ivory, concealed in a rubber container originating from Tanzania according to available information about the shipping documents. The well hidden loot was discovered following an anonymous tip off, and it could also be established that Vietnam was only being used as a transit country with the final destination of the blood ivory again being China, to where the loot was to leave shortly.
While relentless pressure is being exerted by the global conservation community on the Chinese government to take legislative action against possession, processing and importation of blood ivory from Africa, they have so far continued to turned a blind eye to the problem. Displaying ivory in one’s home in China is a status symbol, much cherished and coveted, and the trend coupled with the desires of the nouvelle riche in China to emulate their more established peers has driven a poaching tsunami across Africa. Unless therefore stiff criminal penalties are imposed by China, and the practice be made socially unacceptable, like the wearing of expensive fur coats in the West some decades ago, Africa will be fighting a losing battle against their loss of wildlife, on which much of the income from tourism is based.
The growing flood of Chinese companies and workers coming to Africa too has impacted greatly on the increasing trade in illegal game trophies, animal bones, rhino horn and ivory, and most individual caught at African airports with blood ivory are said to be Chinese citizens on their way home.
International law enforcement agencies in conjunction with the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka are now working, as in all other such cases, to take a DNA analysis of the seized ivory to establish its true origin, as although the shipment came from Tanzania the ivory could conceivably have been smuggled through Tanzania, which has gained a reputation as a trafficking centre and exit point for life birds and ivory in the recent past.
Watch this space.