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Conservation - Rhino Horn and Ivory: a sensitive issue

Brazil Matias Offline
( This post was last modified: 10-09-2018, 07:19 AM by Matias )

I open this topic to focus news, articles and reports on the theme of the rhino horn and marfim. A space for discussion and dissemination of good information, promoting a qualified understanding on this global theme.

"There is a tendency for the two to mingle, giving the impression that the policy adopted for one species is also good for the other, signaling to address a unique conservation strategy for the two species. Elephants do not survive after ivory removal, so there is no means of a selective and sustainable retreat. For rhinos, livestock farming is a viable path, where sustainable and regulated use can provide a quantitative historical recovery. A species has no other means than its effective protection. The other can self-finance, use economic means to make it viable. And this mix can disrupt conservation policies for both species"

Illegal trade seizures: Rhino horn - Mapping the crimes


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Brazil Matias Offline

*This image is copyright of its original author
Has rhino poaching decreased, or are we running out of rhinos?

By Janine Avery  - 1 October 2018  - IOL  - FREE TO PUBLISH CREDIT CAT

*This image is copyright of its original author
South Africa is home to the densest population of rhinos in the world and saw a 9 000% increase in rhino poaching from 2007 to 2014. Picture: Amiee White Beazley/The Washington Post.

strategic report on poaching just released by the Department of Environmental Affairs shows that fewer rhinos but more elephants are being killed. Of concern, however, is what it leaves out.
Until August this year, 506 rhinos were poached in South Africa, 333 in the Kruger National Park. That’s 185 fewer than the same period last year. At the same time poaching incursions into KNP increased from 1 702 last year to 1 873 this year.

Taken together – higher incursions and fewer kills – it’s bad news, meaning there are fewer and fewer rhinos left to hunt. And as rhino kills decline, elephant poaching has increased, with 58 shot this year.

‘If we look at the bigger picture,’ said wildlife filmmaker Bonné de Bod, while the government lauds the success of fewer rhino poaching incidents, the rhino population numbers, specifically white rhinos, have seen an alarming decline. There are just fewer rhinos left in the park to poach.’ 

IFP Chief Whip in Parliament, Narend Singh MP, agrees. ‘Although the report shows a decrease in the poaching of rhino’s in South Africa, the IFP maintain that even one rhino killed for its horn in South Africa is one too many. More must be done by government, especially in our SAPS, NPA and judiciary.

According to the DEA report, 400 rhino poaching suspects were arrested in 2018, of which 162 were in Kruger Park. In addition, five Chinese and eight South African wildlife traffickers were arrested by the Hawks.
However, arrests are not translating into court appearances. Only 70 cases, involving 163 accused, have gone to court. There are also still 530 rhino poaching-related cases still on court rolls, which involve over 750 accused on more than 1,700 charges. And despite 300 of these cases being trial ready only a handful appear to have set court dates.

‘Far too often we are seeing cases being bungled by poorly executed SAPS arrests and untrained prosecutors,’ says Singh. ‘There is the ever-present spectre of corruption and then, when there is a conviction, the sentence handed down is simply far too lenient.’

‘We have major concerns regarding the consistency of the courts and the legal system,’ says Ross Purdon of the Democratic Alliance. ‘We’re aware of lenient sentencing from the Skukuza court and the granting of bail to repeat offenders. The early release of the Thai kingpin of illegal rhino poaching and horn trade, Chumlong Lemtongthai, is an absolute disgrace.’

Some of the arrests show that poachers are sometimes getting ‘inside’ help. Since January, four Kruger officials have been arrested by SANParks enforcement staff for poaching-related offences. These include members of the SAPS and the SA National Defense Force.

The report also mentions that a total of 538 live rhino were exported from South Africa since 2014, with 177 going to locations in North America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. However, there is no mention of the current welfare of these rhinos, which remains a concern.

‘The export of our rhino to Asia cannot be seen to be a long-term sustainability initiative,’ says Kim Da Ribeira of the group Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching. ‘The scientific authority does not monitor the welfare of these rhinos once they have left our borders. Until they do, there should be no live export.’

According to the report, following the lifting of the moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn, 28 permits have been issued for the sale of 1,219 rhino horns.

According to the Environmental Wildlife Trust, this presents opportunities for laundering illegal horn through legal trade channels. Responding to the report, it said: ‘there is a concern that it’s not possible to keep track of all legally supplied rhino horn and to distinguish it from illegal horn due to capacity constraints, resource shortages and corrupt practices.

‘As rhino horn is mostly a consumed product traceability once acquired by a consumer is even more challenging than may be the case for ivory or other wildlife products.’

Link: Has rhino poaching decreased, or are we running out of rhinos?
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Brazil Matias Offline

New research shows Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China

October 2, 2018
Save The Elephants

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Increased amounts of ivory are flowing into China from Myanmar, according to a new publication by Save the Elephants.
The report ‘Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China’ released today (subs: October 2, 2018) shows that one town in particular, Mong La - a frontier town in the notorious Golden Triangle on the border of China - has experienced a ‘prolific growth’ in ivory trading. The number of new ivory items seen for sale  in the town grew by 63% in three years, and now accounts for over a third of the ivory seen in the country.

The report by ivory trade specialists Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin recounts how Chinese visitors smuggle worked ivory from Mong La back home with little concern about getting caught. This ivory has often come up the Mekong River into the lawless eastern periphery of Myanmar where it is for sale in both retail and bulk. The wholesale price for African raw ivory in late 2017 in the Golden Triangle region has remained stable at about USD 770 to USD 800 per kg since late 2015.

Myanmar has the largest captive, or ‘domestic’, elephant population in the world with over 5,000 individuals. Traders there say that the internal ivory trade is legal for trimmed domestic elephant tusk tips and from licensed animals that have died, and operate accordingly. (Trading in the tusks of the remaining wild elephants in Myanmar – numbering perhaps 2,000 – is acknowledged to be illegal). The ivory from captive elephants is used for local carving and retail sale especially in Mandalay and Yangon. Their tusks are also sold wholesale in Mandalay to Chinese traders, who smuggle them across the China border in contravention of the existing international ivory trade ban.

Traders reported that 90% of buyers were Chinese wishing to smuggle the ivory home, as also found by the same authors in market surveys in Hong Kong (2015) and Laos (2017). In Vietnam (2016) this was estimated to be 75%. 

Poaching is a problem for elephants in Myanmar but the country also provides a largely unchecked conduit for illegal African ivory carved in the region to be smuggled into China, in violation of International Law. The authorities are not deterring ivory smugglers and trade in ivory and other endangered wildlife products that is running riot to meet the continued Chinese demand.” says Lucy Vigne, the lead author of the report.

The researchers found five towns and cities (of eight visited) with 51 shops openly displaying 14,846 ivory items for sale. These were Mong La, Mandalay, Yangon, Tachileik and Bagan.  In Mong La, ten open Chinese shops were counted, nearly all specializing in selling ivory, displaying 5,279 recently-made ivory items. Of these, 2,467 (mostly large pendants stacked like dominoes on wall shelves in transparent plastic wrapping) appeared to be newly arrived. The figures show a soaring 63% increase from a comparable TRAFFIC survey conducted in 2013/2014 (add link) which found 3,302 ivory items for sale.

Around 10 Myanmar ivory carvers remain active in Mandalay, with fewer in Yangon. Most still use simple hand tools, while a few may use electric drills. In Mong La, a computer-driven machine in one shop enables Chinese artisans to mass produce decorative ivory items. These items are in more demand by Chinese buyers than ‘unfashionable' traditional Myanmar ivory carvings, with Myanmar carvers complaining of slow sales of this apparently legal product in the past two or three years.

In contrast most ivory items preferred by the Chinese - small trinkets that can be easily smuggled across the border -  had significantly increased in price. Bangles, the most popular, had soared 600% to an average of US$444 in 2017, up from US$61 in 2002. Similar increases were seen for chopsticks, cigarette holders and name seals. The researchers also saw intricate carvings and figurines that appeared to have been smuggled in from China where sales are now illegal following the introduction of the country’s domestic ivory ban.

“This new study from Vigne and Martin shows the scale of the challenge that remains for elephants in the face of the ivory trade. Despite great political commitment from the Chinese government and the moral leadership of influential citizens it will take continued united action to end the issue. China’s new laws have to be rigorously enforced, borders must be controlled and everyone must be made aware of the terrible consequences of buying ivory,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder of Save the Elephants.

Key findings from the survey, conducted in late 2017:
  • Ivory items were found on display in five towns and cities out of eight visited, with 51 shops openly displaying 14,846 ivory items for sale.
  • Vendors stated that Chinese customers buy about 90% of what they sell.
  • The illegal ivory trade in Mong La on the Chinese border soared by 63% increase in three years. In late 2017 there were ten shops open with 5,279 recently-made ivory items openly for sale. A TRAFFIC survey in 2013/2014 found 3,302 worked ivory items.
  • While traders claim that much of the worked ivory on sale has been crafted by Myanmar carvers, from Myanmar’s elephants, over a third of the ivory items seen were in shops in Mong La on the China border, and appeared to be from African elephants.
  • According to ivory dealers, domestic trade in licensed ivory from Myanmar’s captive elephants (trimmed tusk tips and from animals that have died) is legal. This is contested by at least one organisations in Myanmar. The trade in tusks from Myanmar’s wild elephants is illegal.
  • Larger raw tusks from Myanmar’s male elephants are sometimes sold in Mandalay to Chinese buyers and smuggled across the Chinese border, in contravention of the CITES ban.
  • Raw tusks of Myanmar elephants were selling wholesale for local carving at an average of USD 961/kg.
  • The wholesale price for African raw ivory in the Golden Triangle region was about USD 770–800/kg. The price appears to have remained stable since late 2015.

This report is dedicated to the memory of consultant Esmond Martin who was killed on 4th February 2018.

The report, ‘Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China’, was funded by the Elephant Crisis Fund and published by Save The Elephants.

For more information:

Lucy Vigne, ivory researcher, tel: +254 722 411 037
Save The Elephants +254 727 276 409
About Save The Elephants (
Save The Elephants works to secure a future for elephants in Africa.  Specializing in elephant research, STE provides scientific insights into elephant behaviour, intelligence, and long-distance movements and applies them to the challenges of elephant survival. To battle the current surge in ivory poaching, our Elephant Crisis Fund is identifying and supporting the most effective partners in Africa and in the ivory consuming nations to stop poaching, thwart illegal traffickers and end demand for blood-stained ivory.
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