By Peter J. Li, Iris Ho
The recent seizure of 645 illegally obtained and trafficked wolf pelts from Greece at Beijing's Capital International Airport is a commendable act by the China's General Administration of Customs. Together with other recent seizures of elephant tusks and rhino horns in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has shown the world its growing efforts to combat the illicit wildlife trade.
These recent actions are particularly laudable because China occupies a pivotal strategic position in the global fight for wildlife protection.
China is rich in biodiversity, and is a top market for wildlife and its parts. Effective enforcement of China's Law on the Protection of Wildlife and honoring its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species serve to protect Chinese indigenous species and those in other countries.
In recent years, China has faced the daunting task of stopping the influx of wildlife contraband and protecting the threatened species within its national borders. Chinese authorities have faced a challenging situation that has invited misunderstanding and, oftentimes, accusations.
Historically and globally, demand for expensive wildlife products follows economic prosperity. China's rise as an economic superpower has brought with it new "status vices." Some people with income to spare spend it on lavish and often outlandish wildlife luxury goods like rhino horn and elephant ivory. While economic prosperity is good for a nation and its people, it may spell doom for wildlife species.
China is not immune to this problem and is not alone. The US and other countries went through similar episodes during their economic development.
With the global economic balance of power shifting eastward, the rising purchasing power in East Asia has made it a new destination for illegal ivory and other wildlife products. More....