RELENTLESS PRESSURE PAYS OFF AS CHINA CUSTOMS CONSIDERS USE OF SNIFFER DOGS
The stinging global criticism against Chinas apparent hesitation to join Africa in protecting its wildlife heritage, which has grown louder and more intense month after month, is apparently showing some reaction now in the Peoples Republic. Intercepted shipments of blood ivory and rhino horn have regularly shown China as a final destination and a few seizures inside China too showed just how the demand by the nouvelle riche has driven the commercial scale poaching in Africa, decimating rhinos in particular in Southern Africa and slaughtering elephant on an unprecedented scale for their tusks.
News have now emerged that Chinese customs organization GACC has finally engaged in talks with TRAFFIC and other international experts on the use of sniffer dogs, specialized in detecting concealed ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products, something successfully introduced by the Kenya Wildlife Service at the airport in Nairobi and the port of Mombasa, where shipments in transit hidden in the baggage of passengers but more importantly major quantities concealed in containers and declared as other cargo have been nabbed.
China has been harshly and rightly critizised for not doing enough in enforcing existing laws and regulations and been urged to make legislative changes and introduce more serious punishment for importers of blood ivory and related wildlife products, for the processing and for the possession of ivory carvings. Intricate carvings are seen as status symbol while healers peddle the value of ground rhino horn for a number of ailments, which in truth however have no greater value than chewing ones own fingernails, made of the very same natural substance.
CITES has supported the Chinese willingness to move with the times and customs agencies already using such specialized sniffer dogs have also signaled willingness to share expertise and assist the Chinese customs department with training.
Global wildlife organizations and NGOs have cautiously welcomed this apparent change in policy by China but have immediately pointed out that this can only be the first of many steps the country has to take to comply fully with global conventions and that more significant legal and regulatory changes must follow before Chinas suspected tacit and covert tolerance over the smuggling of blood ivory, rhino horn, tiger bones and other much in demand wildlife products can be revised in the court of global public opinion. Watch this space.