The British Government is to take part in a major conference aimed at halting the trade in poached ivory and animal parts from Africa. For the first time China has agreed to send a senior minister along. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Phil Mansbridge, chief executive of Care for the Wild International.
The actor Jackie Chan and the basketball star Yao Ming will be there as well as several African heads of State. Last year around 22, 000 elephants were killed illegal and in South Africa alone more than 1,000 rhinos died. The market for their horns and tusks is China.
Phil Care said: “We saw China at the beginning of this year burn 6.1 tonnes of their ivory stockpile and that’s something nobody would have expected this time last year, for example. There’s also the news today that China will be sending senior delegates to the illegal wildlife trade summit, and again that’s something which probably people were sceptical was going to happen. And what we’re saying is, we’re not protesting against China. What we’re saying is: China, help us save the elephants. It’s something that will send a clear message to the rest of the world and for once China would be leading by example on these environmental issues, rather than always being the bad guy.
“[The situation in Africa] is serious beyond all level. I mean, it’s the worst it’s ever been. It’s worse than it was in the peak in the late eighties. There’s such a growing economy in China. There’s a new and emerging middle class so there are more consumers who are going out in the market place to buy ivory.
"The rate of that growth is unsustainable and the rate of ivory consumption is completely unsustainable and we look set now to lose elephants in as little as 20 years. That translates to one every 15 minutes. So one elephant will be shot in the next 15 minutes.
“South Africa is facing a real crisis as well at the moment, particularly with the rhinos. They lost over a thousand rhinos last year. That was or four rhinos a year being killed, so they’ve seen something like a 4,000 percent increase in rhino poaching.
“For the first time, there’s now a domestic ivory market in Africa and that was something that just wasn’t the case before. The vast majority is being exported but you do now have a Chinese population in Africa. We’re talking large numbers. Chinese communities are merging and with that comes a demand for their insatiable thirst for ivory.
"What it also does is it means there’s much more mobility of Chinese nationals in and out of Africa so the opportunities to smuggle become higher as well. And incidentally, just today, actually, news came from my source in Kenya that another Chinese citizen was arrested and was sentenced today and unfortunately their new wildlife bill was passed very recently and the man was sentenced to what was an unprecedented fine in Kenya, the first of its kind – actually 20 million Kenyan shillings, which equates to nearly £140,000. Prior to the new wildlife laws, you would have been lucky to get something like US$1,000." Audiofile.