The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today applauded China for its first public effort to crackdown on illegal ivory trade, calling the Government’s destruction of six tonnes of confiscated ivory a “milestone event”.
“International cooperation is paving the way towards improved law enforcement and increased efforts to reduce demand,” UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said.
“The largest remaining land mammal on the planet is facing one of the greatest crises to hit the species in decades,” Mr. Steiner added, calling for stronger efforts to curb the illegal trade in so-called ‘white gold’, which can reportedly fetch up to $2,000 per kilogram.
Some 47,000 animals were killed in Africa in 2011 and 2012, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Elephant poaching doubled and illegal ivory trade tripled in the last decade, endangering already fragile populations in Central Africa, as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa, according to UNEP’s ‘Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis’.
The report, released last March, warned that criminal networks are increasingly involved and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia, where demand is high, particularly in countries with a growing economy such as China.
The report recommends improving law enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain, and increasing collaboration among transit and consumer countries through international organizations such as CITES, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol and the World Bank. It also highlights the need to combat corruption and reduce demand for ivory.
The report was jointly produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) and released at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES convention in Bangkok, Thailand.
Today’s crushing of ivory ornaments, tusks and carvings in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province was described as the first public destruction of ivory in China.
“We have also seen the destruction of ivory stockpiles across range, transit and demand States,” Mr. Steiner said citing the Philippines, the Gabon and the United States. “As well as create critical public awareness, such actions send a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated.”