By Tristan McConnell
Chinese workers are buying ivory tusks hacked from the carcasses of illegally hunted elephants in a banned trade that could decimate herds in one of Kenya’s most famous wildlife reserves, a recent report has concluded.
Thousands of African elephants are killed every year to supply a market largely driven by Asian demand. Last year the first legal ivory auction in nine years was held and more than 100 tons of elephant tusks were sold exclusively to Chinese and Japanese buyers who fought to outbid each other in multi-million dollar sales.
The resurrection of such auctions and the increase in Chinese workers in Africa have sparked fears about the potential impact on a species that has only recently recovered from illegal poaching.
“The situation for elephants in the [Amboseli\ area has become critical over the past year and more particularly over the past four months,” warned the report by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, run by veteran conservationist Dr. Cynthia Moss, who has been working in the 150-square-mile reserve in southern Kenya for 37 years.
Patrick Omondi, head of species conservation at Kenya Wildlife Service, said Kenya lost 98 elephants to poaching in 2008, double the number killed in 2007, but he said the news from Amboseli was particularly worrying. “This is the first time in a decade that we've seen poaching in Amboseli," he said.
The recent arrest of a Kenyan and a Tanzanian highlights the seriousness of the problem. The pair pled guilty in March to illegal possession of ivory after they were caught carrying 1,129 pounds of tusks, extracted from about 35 to 40 elephants. More....