A huge haul of illegal ivory in China has revealed the vast scale of the trade and flaws in the country's system of legal ivory sales, a wildlife monitoring group said. A court heard that authorities seized a total of 7.7 tons of ivory on a series of occasions in 2011, reports said last week, and three people were jailed for terms ranging from seven to 15 years in connection with the case.
The seizure represented the ivory of more than 800 elephants, wildlife monitoring group Traffic said in a statement.
China has a legal market in ivory, which is supplied from a stockpile of 62 tons of ivory bought with international approval in 2008. But critics have accused the legal trade of masking a much larger illegal market.
One of the convicts managed several legal ivory shops, showing a systematic attempt to "launder illegal ivory into the legal marketplace on a grand scale", Traffic said.
"The magnitude of these seizures is a shocking blow to the integrity of China's legal ivory trade system," the release quoted Traffic spokesperson Tom Milliken as saying.
The group added that the Chinese report brought the total estimated weight of ivory seized in 2011 to a "staggering" 46.5 tons, making it the worst year for ivory smuggling on record. More....