MORE IVORY CONFISCATED IN HONG KONG
Nearly 800 elephant tusks were yesterday found in containers, shipped from Africa via Malaysia to Hong Kong. The consignment weighed nearly two tons and is estimated to have a street value of about 13 million Hong Kong Dollars. CITES’s Secretariat and Interpol will be conducting a DNA analysis on the blood ivory to ascertain the precise origin of the contraband, working hand in hand with police and customs authorities in Hong Kong. All shipping documents linked to the container are also being forensically examined and audited to track the route of the shipment back to the port of origin in Africa.
Only last week were 1.041 tusks confiscated in Zanzibar by customs officials, also allegedly destined for Malaysia but widely thought to have China as a final destination.
The most recent finds mean that for the two consignments alone over 900 elephant were butchered but considering the amount of blood ivory which has not been discovered and reached its destination, estimates are that between several thousand elephant will have been killed this year to feed the growing greed for the ‘white gold’ stemming from the demand for ivory on the Chinese market.
The global conservation fraternity, while welcoming the vigilance of the Hong Kong customs officials and security organs, is now demanding that China immediately strengthens their relevant laws on import, possession, processing and trading in ivory products and introduces crippling fines and long term incarceration for culprits found guilty in a court of law.
Existing laws provide presently for fines of up to 2 million Hong Kong Dollars for importation of un-manifested cargos, or imprisonment of up to 7 years, or both while under the law providing for the protection of endangered species and plants a fine of up to 5 million Hong Kong Dollars and imprisonment of up to two years can be dished out.
Conservationists have privately voiced their disgust over the level of punishment, considering that the wildlife legacy of Africa is being recklessly plundered and proposed jail terms, in Africa itself for the poachers but also in the importing countries, of 10 years and more be introduced while fines should be aimed at financially crippling the culprits as a deterrent against poaching.
Two weeks ago the Executive Committee of CITES met, and initially tried to exclude NGO’s and civil society organization and activists from their meeting but reversed their decision when immediate global pressure was applied on them to allow the conservation fraternity into the meeting.
It emerged that poaching and illegal ivory trade were high on the agenda and of growing concern to many countries and proposals were made to withdraw China’s status as an approved ivory trading nation to tear off the mantle of legality from basically illicit transactions.
Watch this space.