By Chris Davis
When Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta made his first state visit to China last month, one of the several hefty packages he returned with was Beijing's promise to help the East African nation with its wildlife poaching problem.
Kenyatta said the Chinese government offered to help improve surveillance around national parks and game reserves, and "help with capacity building to enable the Kenya Wildlife Service deal with poachers effectively", a press release from the State House in Nakuru read.
The problem, by anyone's numbers, is bad. And it's not just in Kenya. UNESCO recently said "the massacre of wild species has reached an industrial scale, in particular the poaching of animals for their ivory". The UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species says that 30,000 elephants are slaughtered every year for their ivory and could become extinct in 15 to 20 years.
Matthew Lewis, senior program officer with the World Wildlife Fund and a specialist in African species conservation, said that poaching of elephants in Africa is "at the highest levels we've seen since we've been tracking it".
Lewis says that "without question, demand in China has largely driven this increase in elephant ivory poaching. The growth in the economy of China has a strong correlation with demand. The availability of spending money for the average Chinese individual means that ivory as a status symbol is highly in demand in China."
What can China do about it? Lewis thinks it goes way beyond giving money to Africa's anti-poaching efforts. He calls for a much deeper relationship between African governments and China in combating the crime, working very closely hand-in-hand on enforcement issues. More....