By John Carney
A veteran safari guide from Africa says the only way to stop the illegal trade in elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns to China is by educating mainland buyers.
Richard Knocker, 50, was born in Kenya and has worked for the past 20 years in Tanzania, operating safari tours in East Africa.
Because of his work, Knocker has come to realise the importance of raising awareness through tourists.
"There are some common misconceptions, particularly in China, so it's all about educating people," he said. "There's a belief in China that elephants shed their tusks and they are not killed. It means [people\ can buy ivory with a clear conscience as the animals have not been harmed."
It should be made clear that to own an ivory trinket an elephant had to die for it, he said. In many cases they suffer horrific deaths.
Customs figures show Hong Kong has confiscated at least 16 tonnes of ivory since 2008. Some 1,800 elephants would have been killed to provide such a haul. Its value - based on the 2010 price of US$700 per kilogram - is about HK$87 million.
But prices are likely to have increased since then, and the stock is expected to keep growing as the trade is booming and Hong Kong is a favoured transit point.
In the early 1990s, Knocker and some friends founded safari agency Nomad Tanzania. They have seen a dramatic rise in mainland Chinese holidaymakers going on safari in recent years and he is adamant that through their travels, they will realise the gravity of the situation.
"As people become more affluent, it's important that they also become more environmentally aware. When they understand what exactly is being done to these animals, then hopefully they will show more discretion." More....