Illegal trade is a major source of income for criminal organizations. To profit, criminals will find a way to supply any good that is in demand. A prime example of the ruthless lengths these organizations will go to in order to make money is the trade of ivory.
Ivory has been traded internationally since the 14th century B.C., exported from Africa to wealthy European and Asian countries. The practice, which involves the killing and maiming of elephants, rhinos and hippos for their ivory tusks, is driven by demand from collectors of wildlife trophies in the West and for their use in traditional medicines in East Asia.
International efforts to crack down on the illicit trade of ivory have grown in recent years. Crucially, China and Hong Kong outlawed the trade entirely in 2018. Since then, we have seen real progress in the size and scale of illicit-ivory busts. In 2017, Hong Kong customs officials found 7.2 tons of elephant tusks inside a shipment of frozen fish, worth £7.12 million—the largest in history.
Continuing progress in combating illicit ivory
More recent hauls show that progress continues in the global effort to combat illicit ivory. However, they also show us that there is still more to be done to eradicate the problem. Just this month, separate raids in China and in Dubai led to the seizure of over 5,000 tusks, collectively weighing more than 8 tons.
The bust of 2,700 tusks in the remote Chinese town of Shuidong marked the largest seizure of ivory that the Chinese anti-smuggling bureau had ever carried out. The General Administration of Customs has filed 182 cases of smuggling since the beginning of the year, leading to 171 arrests and the disruption of 27 criminal organizations.
Similarly, the smugglers caught in Dubai last month were transporting 2,272 tusks to Asian markets. As a common crossroad between Africa and Asia, Dubai has been a hot spot for ivory traffickers.
The power of international collaboration
These arrests show the power of international collaboration across multiple public-private partnerships. Government agencies worked with border enforcement and anti-poaching charities to track down those responsible.
In a statement about the raid in China, executive director of the U.K.’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Mary Rice said: “Having been labelled as the single biggest destination of illegal wildlife for many years and having closed its legal domestic ivory market last year, it is now extremely encouraging to see the impact that intelligence-led enforcement can have in China when enforcement authorities proactively pursue international wildlife criminals and their networks.”
Find out more about the raids in China and Dubai this week.
Written by STOP: ILLEGAL