Government and international organizations have been working hard to protect Africa’s natural resources despite limited funding and instability across the continent. Progress has been made on many fronts, but Asian demand for ivory and other illegal animal products has caused a recent increase in poaching and other illegal activities.
Ivory refers to the tusks of elephants. Ivory is prized in making ornaments and trinkets and other types of decorations. It is normally seen as conveying wealth and status, and thus most of the demand is generated from wealthier individuals who have money to spend. Rhino horns and other illegal animal products are often used in the same way. Other illegal animal products, such as the internal organs from tigers, are used for “medicinal” purposes.
Hong Kong has become one of the biggest ports for ivory and other illegal animal products being shipped into China, which is believed to be the world’s largest consumer of such illegal animal products. In July, some 2.2 million dollars worth of ivory tusks were seized in a major raid. In August of 2012, over 5 million dollars worth of ivory, rhino horns, and illegal animal skins were seized.
While some African countries have been trying to curb illegal poaching, resources remain scarce and enforcement efforts are sporadic at best. Between poor governance, weak law enforcement efforts, and instability caused by weak economies and widespread conflict, there seems to be little hope that African governments can solve this problem on their own, especially while international demand remains high.
Indeed, curbing demand from places such as China may be the only practical hope. More....