A new report finds that West and Central Africa have emerged as major sourcing and export hubs for the illegal trafficking of elephant ivory and pangolin scales to Asia.
Since 2015, Nigeria has emerged as the world’s primary exit point for ivory and pangolin scales trafficked from Africa to Asia. During the past five years, it has been implicated in global seizures of more than 30 tons of ivory and 167 tons of pangolin scales – the equivalent of at least 4,400 elephants and many hundreds of thousands of pangolins.
At a time when the world is grappling with the crippling impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, such high-volume of trade in wildlife poses a serious risk for the spread of zoonotic diseases – those arising from animals – such as COVID-19.
Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), and Nigeria are affected by some of the highest levels of organized crime on the African continent; all three have well-established criminal networks involved in trafficking wildlife, humans, drugs, minerals, timber, and weapons.
“Given the challenges of crime and corruption in several parts of West and Central Africa, we need to act now before elephants, pangolins, and other wildlife disappear forever from this part of the world,” said Shruti Suresh, EIA Senior Wildlife Campaigner, in a statement. “West and Central Africa’s porous borders make the region exceptionally vulnerable to wildlife trafficking networks, but there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackle the problem.”
“As a matter of urgency, governments in the region need to address corruption, the lack of political will to tackle wildlife crime, poor law enforcement – particularly at porous borders and entry/exit ports – as well as the role of foreign nationals involved in wildlife crime operating in this region,” continued Suresh.
Key transportation companies identified as carriers for wildlife contraband include Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, and Pacific International Lines. Identified airlines include Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Emirates Airlines, making it clear that strong collaboration between public and private sectors is essential to turn the tide against wildlife crime.
As well as documenting the huge volumes of ivory and pangolin scales smuggled from Africa to Asia, Out of Africa identifies Nigeria as a country of significant concern and lays bare the complex structure of wildlife trafficking and the roles played by rogue clearing agents, freight forwarders, and other key players who enable industrial scale trafficking of ivory and pangolin scales from Africa.
Poachers and suppliers in primary source countries – including: Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Liberia – secure ivory and pangolin scales before transport agents arrange for shipment to Nigeria.
Once in Nigeria, traders work closely with shipping agents to clear shipments for export through major hubs, including Apapa seaport and Lagos airport, often choosing to use trans-shipment locations such as Malaysia and Singapore to ‘break the route’ and circumvent detection.
Repacking and switching Bills of Lading may take place through clearing agents during transit before onward transportation to Vietnam and China via air, sea, or land routes.
Fraudulent shipping paperwork is used to conceal what is actually being transported; pangolin scales and ivory have been exported under the guise of frozen beef, auto parts, seeds, cashew nuts, and ginger, while ivory has been smuggled within shipments of wood and even concealed inside hollowed-out timber.
On arrival in Asia, agents clear shipments to forward to the importers, who then sell the goods on to processors and/or end consumers.
All along the trafficking routes, corrupt officials at air and seaports play a key role, taking bribes to turn a blind eye and ensure the ‘smooth’ passage of contraband across borders.
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In a promising new report, Teetering on the Brink: Japan’s online ivory trade, TRAFFIC finds that the trade in ivory has dropped by as much as 100% this year on Japan’s largest online ivory trading platform, Yahoo Japan. It’s a major development considering the dangerous state of the nation’s ivory market revealed in 2017. This resolve must become nation-wide and be enforced by the Japanese government if the country is to put an end to its role in the international ivory trade.
Three years ago, TRAFFIC revealed an urgent need for Japan to close down its ivory market to end its significant contribution to the ongoing destructive international ivory trade which, despite its illegality under (CITES) [1,2], provokes the killing of an estimated 55 African Elephants per day. With illegal exports rising and incidents of large ivory seizures, the 2017 report was seen as a final warning with a clear need for authorities to address the issue to help protect elephants. Regrettably, the government response has been minimal.
Nevertheless, in recent years, several online platforms have taken voluntary steps to ban ivory sales. They included, in November 2019, Yahoo Japan, who at the time were the largest e-commerce platform for ivory, a move that was heralded as a major turning point. With the ban now firmly in place, TRAFFIC’s new report Teetering on the Brink evaluates the impact of that decision.
In a snapshot survey, TRAFFIC compared the number of shops selling ivory on Yahoo Shopping before and after the ban, and found a remarkable 100% decrease, from 58 shops in 2017 to 54 shops in 2018, now down to zero in 2020. Comparable trends were found for Rakuten-Ichiba, which instigated the same ban three years earlier, with just one online shop offering ivory post-ban, compared to 55 pre-ban.
Similarly optimistic results were found on Yahoo Auction, with sales of ivory not just by businesses but between consumers (non-business individuals) almost disappearing entirely, dropping by over 99%. In cases where the researchers did find offers of ivory contra company policy, after they were alerted, the companies took swift action to have them removed.
Such achievements reveal that voluntary bans by companies have great value in shutting down mechanisms by which ivory can leak into the international market from Japan, as well as the strong industry commitment to combating the problem.
Other companies in the sector that do not yet enforce such a ban are strongly encouraged to do so, particularly with the greater shift towards online shopping as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the report warns that actions by the e-commerce industry, although highly significant, are insufficient to address ongoing issues with Japan’s ivory market. Although online trade in ivory and illegal exports have reduced, they are still ongoing, including trade to China despite their domestic ivory ban introduced at the beginning of 2018.
Ivory trade persists in Japan via other channels including at physical auction houses and in private groups on social media, which are particularly challenging to measure and monitor.
TRAFFIC therefore calls upon the Japanese Government to develop an action plan that will decisively close its ivory markets (with narrow exemptions), initiate consultations on phasing out the use of ivory nameseals (hankos), and work more closely with Chinese Authorities to achieve CITES’s goals.
“As beneficial as actions from individual companies and local governments are, they can only trim the edges, not address the heart of the issue,” said Ryoko Nishino, Program Officer at TRAFFIC’s Tokyo office. “Comprehensive change must come from the top: the central government must commit to enforcing stringent measures to ensure Japan can no longer be implicated in the demise of African Elephants.”
One fifth of Africa’s Elephants have been lost in the last decade. The new report highlights the rapid changes that the private sector and enforcement measures can bring about—actions that need to be replicated in all countries with unregulated ivory
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Governor Phil Scott signed H.99 (ACT 169) into law last week, making Vermont the 12th state in the nation to ban the trade of imperiled wildlife parts. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2022.
State bans are critical to ending demand in the United States, one of the largest importers of imperiled wildlife parts in the world. Federal law only restricts import, export, and interstate trade. If there is no state law, the trade is free and clear once the item arrives in the state.
The new law will stop trade within the state of Vermont of imperiled wildlife parts from 15 of the world’s most at-risk species, including: elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos, jaguars, leopards, lions, pangolins, rays, sea turtles, sharks, tigers, primates, and whales. This also includes elephant ivory that is poached and disguised as ancient ivory from Wooly Mammoths and Mastodons.
As per the new bill, people are allowed to keep ivory that they already possess, pass it down, or give it away, they just cannot sell it. Exemptions include musical instruments.
“This legislation is vitally important because any sale of ivory, whether new or old, fuels demand,” Brenna Galdenzi, Co-Founder and President of Protect Our Wildlife said in a statement. “As long as we, right here in Vermont, place a monetary value on endangered animal parts, it fuels wildlife trafficking and poaching.”
Protect Our Wildlife has been working with Vermont for Wildlife’s Co-founder Ashley Prout McAvey, making this effort a focus of their work since they first started their nonprofit in February of 2015.
“My hope is that Vermont’s latest action will encourage the remaining 38 states to act swiftly to close their markets in these imperiled animal parts,” shared McAvey. “When all 50 states take a stand, the nation will be making a resounding impact in the battle against extinction.”
States that have enacted similar legislation include: New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, California, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Minnesota, and New Mexico.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg
The post Vermont Becomes The 12th State In The U.S. To Ban The Sale Of Elephant Ivory & Other Parts Of Imperiled Species appeared first on World Animal News.
The landmark UK Ivory Act has passed its final hurdle with the announcement on August 17th that the Supreme Court has refused to allow an appeal against a Court of Appeal decision in May by antiques dealers.
The Act was introduced after the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed, in its ground-breaking research in 2017, that the UK was the world’s leading exporter of antique ivory, particularly to China and Hong Kong; two illegal trade hotspots.
Despite being passed in 2018, with overwhelming support and cross-party Parliamentary backing, the Act has been challenged at every opportunity by a small group of traders operating as Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT). It was first challenged at a judicial review in the High Court in November 2019, again at an appeal in February of this year against the High Court’s decision in favor of the Act, and, most recently, at the Court of Appeal’s decision in May upholding the Act’s validity and legality.
“We are delighted to learn that the Supreme Court has rejected a further application to appeal against the UK Government’s ivory ban, considered one of the strictest of all bans globally,” Mary Rice, EIA Executive Director, said in a statement. “This marks the end, finally, of a long and challenging legal drama and means that we can now celebrate the decision to close the UK’s ivory markets and congratulate the UK for its perseverance and tenacity in upholding the ban. The next challenge to help give the world’s precious elephants a future is to close the EU’s ivory markets.”
EIA has been in the vanguard of a campaign to adopt ivory trade restrictions in the UK, arguing that any legal trade in ivory provides cover for the illegal trade because it is difficult to distinguish between antique and newly carved ivory.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg
The post Breaking! The UK Supreme Court Upholds The Government’s Ban On Ivory By Revoking A Final Attempt By Antiques Dealers To Overturn It appeared first on World Animal News.
Today, the National Parks Board, Singapore (NParks) crushed nine tons of ivory, worth S$18 million, to commemorate World Elephant Day, which falls on August 12th. Singapore’s ivory crushing event, the largest globally in recent years, demonstrates Singapore’s strong determination and commitment to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
The destruction of the ivory seized from various shipments in past years will prevent it from re-entering the market and will disrupt the global supply chain of illegally traded ivory.
Singapore’s first Center for Wildlife Forensics (CWF) also launched today. The CWF will strengthen NParks’ detection and diagnostic capabilities by drawing upon expertise across NParks to identify and analyse specimens involved in the illegal wildlife trade. This will strengthen Singapore’s role in the international fight against the illegal trade in wildlife.
The CWF will focus on wildlife most severely impacted by the illegal wildlife trade, including: elephants, rhinoceros, pangolins, sharks, and rays.
Collaborations between NParks, Singapore Customs, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, as well as other international counterparts have enabled Singapore to seize record amounts of pangolin scales and elephant ivory that were en route to other countries in the region.
“The CITES secretariat has witnessed the high level of priority the government in Singapore affords to curtailing wildlife crime, and the sustained and coordinated involvement of multiple agencies in doing so. Singapore’s use of rigorous risk management and indicators has proven to be highly effective in the screening of suspicious cargo and passengers,” CITES Secretary General, Ms. Ivonne Higuero, said in a statement. “The significant seizures made by authorities in Singapore underscore the efficiency of this approach, and the intelligence reports generated in this regard have also supported actions by other parties.”
Currently, Singapore identifies seized items through morphological and molecular analysis. Moving forward, the Center for Wildlife Forensics can utilize DNA analysis methods that will focus on next generation sequencing, utilizing chemical methods, such as mass spectrometry and isotope analysis, to provide greater resolution and deeper insights on the seized items. Their main focus will closely examine the origin of the population and species that have been poached. This information can help international organizations and source countries to undertake further investigations and enforcements against poachers and smugglers. These capabilities will aid the analysis of seizures throughout the globe to identify potential linkages and syndicates through collaborations with international experts and organizations.
“The launch of a Center for Wildlife Forensics in Singapore represents a major step towards strengthening the country’s knowledge and capabilities. The Center will establish a dedicated capacity building entity for enforcement officers, providing training for the complex task of detecting illegal wildlife and wildlife products,” continued Higuero. “This is exactly the kind of response that is needed to tackle illegal wildlife crime. Forensic applications must fully be used to combat illegal trade in wildlife.”
The Center for Wildlife Forensics will also strengthen Singapore’s commitment to conserve biodiversity in the country’s nature reserves and parks.
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