By Philip Mwakio
In its most recent report, IFAW cited China as the biggest buyer of the ivory and blames the international convention that protects endangered species for permitting these sales.
“In a world of economic uncertainty, elephant ivory has become a new investment vehicle in China, which coincides with an extraordinary surge in the numbers of elephants being killed for their ivory,’’ IFAW has said.
“Elephant ivory has become a new currency in China,” said Grace Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW. IFAW says the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) gave the go ahead for the legal sale of ivory stockpiles by four southern African countries to China and Japan.
Since 2009 when China took delivery of its purchase, the market for ivory in that country - legally traded or not - has spiralled.
Worldwide seizures of illegal ivory have matched the trend with the media reporting that 5,259 tusks (a whopping 23 tons) were confiscated in 2011 alone.
The Chinese regulatory system, introduced in 2004, and intended to strictly control the domestic ivory market in line with Cites requirements, has been rendered virtually impotent against the demand for ivory.
“Of the 158 ivory trade facilities visited by Chinese experts, 101 were operating illegally. Among licensed facilities the majority abused the ivory control system,” said Gabriel.
Experts say that legal ivory imports have provided opportunities for illegal ivory to be whitewashed in China; the insatiable demand for ivory as an investment has tripled the wholesale price of ivory; and currencies influx have created a lethal combination that is decimating wild elephant populations.