June 5, 2018
By Joseph S. Margai in Beijing, China
Meng Xianlin (left) and Chen Difei (right) explaining to journalists efforts taken to combat illegal wildlife trade
In a bid to protect wildlife and other endangered species in both China and Africa, the Chinese government has taken drastic action to shut down 22 ivory carving factories and 88 outlets by the end of 2018.
Already, the country’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration, through the Endangered Species of Wild Fuana and Flora Import and Management Office, has shut down 12 ivory carving domestic factories and 55 outlets in March 2017.
Many African and non-African tabloids have been accusing China of exporting tusks and ivory from Africa, thereby destroying Africa’s wildlife and souring the relationship between both parties.
For instance, QUARTZ Africa published in its headline “Ivory smuggling continues to hurt China’s alliances in Africa”, adding that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni personally accused local officials and two Chinese diplomats of smuggling 1.3 metric tons (about 2,900 pounds) of ivory out of the country in 2014.
Another story published on August 29, 2017 by The Guardian, headlined “Under pressure: the story behind China’s ivory ban” stated that for years Chinese government officials were followed around the world, at every meeting, by a single issue: the scores of dead elephants across Africa, and the international community that blamed China for this “ivory holocaust”.
The African Geographic (AG) on 12th July 2017, with its headline “Exposing illegal ivory trade in China – the Shuidong Connection”, published that even though China has taken steps to close their domestic ivory market by the end of 2017, there was still a complete lack of enforcement against Chinese nationals who are involved in the illegal ivory trade.
Speaking to journalists in Beijing recently, Executive Director General of the Endangered Species of Wild Fuana and Flora Import and Management Office, Meng Xianlin, said they have undertaken some significant steps in order to reduce the sale of ivory and also to protect elephants.
“In early 2015, the State Forestry and Grassland Administration published a bulletin which stated that the import of tusks and ivory of African elephants would be suspended. However, the import of tusks and ivory for non-commercial purposes, such as cultural relics, scientific research or education, cultural exchange, public exhibition and law enforcement or judiciary, are not included in the suspension,” he noted.
He said illegal wildlife products confiscated in crackdown campaigns were destroyed openly on many occasions in an effort to demonstrate government’s firm determination in combating the act of doing so.
He recalled that on 6th January 2014, the Chinese government openly destroys 6.15 tons of confiscated ivory and its products.
In the area of law enforcement on the illegal trade of wildlife, Meng noted that they established the forestry police to specifically combat the illegal utilisation and other crime of wildlife and its products domestically.
He said customs anti-smuggling policies, marine police, among other measures, were established to combat crime related to smuggling of wildlife and its products.
He revealed that in 2009, 57 airlines were involved in endangered wildlife smuggling, while 72 were involved in the act in 2010.
“But from 2011 to now, wildlife smuggling through the air has been drastically reduced because of the robust actions taken by the Chinese government to combat it,” he said.
He said that to further heighten their efforts to combat illegal trade and smuggling of wildlife and its products, they have put in place detection facilities at various ports.
He cited that they have allocated over 1,500 large container scanners to mini ports and over 5,000 vehicle or packing case scanners, adding that some ports even have sniffer dogs.
Chen Difei of the China’s Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management and National Forestry said they have strengthened the supervision and law enforcement on illegal wildlife trade.
“We have promoted specialised law enforcement actions in an effort to enhance the investigation of the smuggling of endangered species such as tigers, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, pangolin, wood, turtles, red coral and totoaba,” he revealed.
He said that in order to enhance public education on illegal trade of wildlife and its products, they have been holding workshop on World Wildlife Day, carrying out public campaigns on Bird-Loving Week and Wildlife Protection Month.
“We have been organising public education for local Chinese in African countries and also carrying out public education at commercial exhibition, horticultural expositions,” he disclosed.
He said in 2018, wildlife education projects will be held in Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, among other countries.
Si Ping, Executive Director, China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), a non-governmental organization, said under CWCA’s active guidance and promotion, China has formed protection networks of 832 member organisations, covering 31 provinces nationwide.
She said CWCA attracted 410,000 active members from wildlife conservation organisations, research institutes, and wildlife breeding and utilisation organizations, among others.
Madam Si Ping stated that CWCA is currently the largest wildlife protection organisation in China and has become an important force in China’s ecological and wildlife conservation fields.