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Thursday, 9 January 2014

China tackles illegal ivory trade

Torn from the pages of the New York Times - an article entitled ‘China Destroys 6 tons of ivory’ by Bettina Wassiner. [This is a shortened version].
Over the past five years or so, poaching of elephants has swelled to record numbers, and China’s been accused as the main culprit with its huge appetite for ivory.

On Monday (6 Jan), however, the Chinese authorities received widespread plaudits when, in a first for the country, they destroyed more than six tons of confiscated ivory ornaments and tusks in Dongguan, a city in the southern province of Guangdong, which is a major hub for the ivory trade.

The widely publicized event was attended by state officials, foreign diplomats and wildlife campaigners.

Cristián Samper, president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society: congratulated the Chinese government “for showing the world that elephant poaching and illegal ivory consumption is unacceptable. We are hopeful that this gesture shows that we can win the war against poaching and that elephants will once again flourish.”

Patrick Bergin, chief executive of the African Wildlife Foundation: “a courageous and critical first step by China to elevate the important issue of wildlife trafficking and elephant poaching among its citizens and around the world.”

Last November, the United States destroyed six tons of ivory. The Philippines, Kenya and Gabon have also destroyed stocks of ivory in their countries.

Rising affluence and more open trade links between China and the rest of the world have fuelled demand for scarce natural resources – anything from ivory to tortoises, shark fins and rosewood – over the past few years, wreaking havoc in many ecosystems and pushing many species to the brink.

The trade is lucrative. Raw ivory can fetch more than $1,000 a pound.

Perhaps the event in Dongguan will help hammer home the message: there’s no profit in slaughtering elephants.

But there’s still a long way to go. Those six-plus tons destroyed represent only a small part of China’s total ivory stockpile, estimated at about 45 tons. Hong Kong’s stash of confiscated ivory has swelled sharply, thanks to several large intercepts in recent years. If China were to destroy the remainder of its ivory stocks and lead the world by committing not to buying ivory in the future, the impact on the survival of African elephants would be immense.

And of course this doesn’t stem the tide of illegal trading in tiger bones and rhino horns for medicinal purposes…

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Blood of the Dragon Trees - a brief excerpt:
Thirty men constantly whittling and inscribing created a surprisingly loud noise inside the high-roofed warehouse. Dolores and Cipriano strode down the aisles of Chinese and Korean men. On her right was the production line for rendering ivory into hanko – small inscribed cylindrical seals.
            ‘Don’t you just love the intricate work of these guys?’ Cipriano said.
            ‘Yes, darling, they’re works of art. They’re given a good salary and we make millions. It’s called the art of making money. Everybody wins.’
            On their left was another production line, where elaborate figurines were being carved out of the ivory tusks of elephants.
            ‘I’ve got a shipment of walrus tusks coming in next month,’ Cipriano said. ‘They’ll fetch more than this, because they’re so rare.’
             At mention of ‘rare’, her brow darkened. ‘We must be careful, Cippi, dear. We’re becoming too successful.’
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Spanish Eye - a brief excerpt:
I shook off such heavy introspective thoughts and studied the photograph.
It showed a large boa constrictor, beautifully marked with cream, brown, tan and gray camouflage ovals and diamonds.
“That’s more like it!” I said enthusiastically. I’d played enough poker games to know that my face betrayed none of my true emotions.
Such exquisite skin belonged on the reptile, not on somebody’s feet or handbag. Still, I was being marginally unkind to Señor Perez whose business was finding expensive homes for exotic pets and not slaughtering endangered species for eye-catching fashion accessories.



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