By Danny Lee
After a week that saw another major haul of ivory intercepted in Hong Kong and the arrest of a man said to be responsible for killing tens of thousands of elephants for their tusks, a Chinese conservationist working in Africa has voiced optimism that China can take centre stage in efforts to conserve the species.
Zhuo Qiang, citing changing attitudes to conservation in the country, said: "There is a huge chance for it to be the main force in conservation." The first move would be to make the sale of ivory in the country illegal, he said.
China was "more heavily implicated in the illicit trade in ivory than any other country", said a report last year by the international conservation NGO Traffic, while The New York Times reported that 70 per cent of ivory poached last year - the worst on record for elephant poaching - flowed to China.
In 2012 alone, 25,000 African elephants were illegally slaughtered for their tusks, according to Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, a body set up as part of an international treaty regulating the legal sale of ivory from approved countries.
And while Hong Kong's Custom and Excise Department has made four big seizures of elephant ivory shipped to the city this year, a lot more is being successfully smuggled. The ivory seized in the city since 2010 is equivalent to the tusks of just 3,300 elephants.
Last week's arrest in Togo, West Africa, of shopkeeper Emile N'bouke and an associate were the latest in a series of joint operations between activists and police that have netted around 900 traffickers. More....