Kenyan Jumbo under Chinese threat
New report links sharp rise in elephant poaching to influx of Chinese workers
The large number of Chinese workers employed in the construction industry in Kenya could be fuelling poaching and ivory smuggling, a report by four international conservation agencies has revealed.
The study says poaching is spreading primarily due to the rising demand for illegal ivory in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, particularly China and Thailand, which are the two major markets globally.
“The prevalence of unregulated domestic ivory markets in many African cities, coupled with the large number of potential Asian buyers residing in Africa associated with infrastructure projects and resource extraction operations, also fuel the demand for ivory,” the report adds.
The findings are from reports compiled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme, Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG), African and Asian Elephant Database, International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), expert consultations and a range of other sources.
Since China started investing in mega-construction projects in Kenya, the number of its citizens in the country has gone up significantly, and so has been the cases of poaching and ivory smuggling. (READ: Ministry urges MPs to prioritise Wildlife Bill)
However, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, Mr Shifan Wu, said the findings of the international conversation agencies linking Asians or Chinese to poaching were not true.
“No Chinese company has been linked to poaching or any Asian people arrested in Kenya over poaching,” he said.
Mr Wu blamed rampant poaching and ivory smuggling to corruption within State agencies tasked with stopping the illegal business.
On Friday, Chinese ambassador to Kenya, Mr Liu Guanyuan, said the two countries would strengthen cooperation in wildlife conservation.
Mr Guanyuan, who met Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Prof Judy Wakhungu, said China attached great importance to wildlife conservation and its regulations were some of the stringent in the world.
The release of the latest report, ‘Elephants in the Dust, The African Elephant Crisis’, comes at a time poaching and ivory smuggling has reached unprecedented levels in Africa.
Kenya Wildlife Service director William Kiprono says poachers have killed at least 137 elephants and 24 rhinos in the last seven months.
Mr Kiprono said half of the endangered species were killed in the Tsavo conservancy, where poachers masquerade as herders. (READ: Special force set up to deal with poachers)
According to Cites secretary-general John Scanlon, results from monitoring and systematic surveys conducted under the Unep-hosted CITES treaty reveal that poaching levels have tripled in recent years, with several elephants killed every single hour of the day.
“Organised syndicates ship several tonnes of ivory at a time to markets in Asia, and hundreds of elephants are killed for every container sent,” he said.
Mr Scanlon said systematic surveys document a tripling in both poaching levels and the number of large-scale seizures of ivory intended for Asian markets over the last five years.
“At the Africa MIKE monitoring sites alone, an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011 — a figure likely to be over 25,000 continent wide,” he said.
The alarming rate elephants and rhinos are being killed in Kenya has forced the government and other stakeholders to come up with measures to curb the menace.
In Laikipia, the fight against poaching is set to go hi-tech with the introduction of drones at Ol-Pejeta Sanctuary.
The government is also training an elite unit comprising of officers from GSU, regular police and KWS to help fight poaching.
ETIS statistics indicate that Kenya and Tanzania together accounted for 16 of the 34 large-scale ivory seizure cases recorded from 2009 through 2011. The total volume of ivory seized was 35 tonnes and accounts for 58 per cent of the ivory impounded during this period.
China and Thailand are the most implicated as destinations for illicit trade in ivory.
In terms of trade routes and transit countries or territories through which large quantities of ivory are flowing from Africa to Asian consumers, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are the paramount countries and territories of concern.
Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are presently the countries of greatest concern when it comes to the source and exit points for large amounts of ivory leaving the continent.
All along the trade chains in these countries and territories, organised criminal syndicates are an active force undermining international and national regulations that prevent trade in ivory.
In sum, these nine countries and territories are the players most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory currently, according to the ETIS report.