News / Africa

    Asia's Growing Wealth Fuels Poaching

    A Chinese man looks at the elephant ivory carvings on display for sale in Beijing, China, July 17, 2008.
    A Chinese man looks at the elephant ivory carvings on display for sale in Beijing, China, July 17, 2008.
    Daniel Schearf
    Asia’s growing class of wealthy professionals is helping fuel the illicit trade in Africa’s endangered species, which experts say is attracting organized crime syndicates of poachers and smugglers hoping to capitalize on the lucrative industry.
     
    Worth $8 billion to $10 billion annually, a large portion of the trade satisfies demands of a large Asian market that value animal parts for traditional medicine and, increasingly, as status symbols.
     
    Activists protest Rhinoceros poaching outside the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, March 29, 2012.Activists protest Rhinoceros poaching outside the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, March 29, 2012.
    x
    Activists protest Rhinoceros poaching outside the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, March 29, 2012.
    Activists protest Rhinoceros poaching outside the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, March 29, 2012.
    Although it has no proven health benefits, powdered rhinoceros horn is believed to be an aphrodisiac that also cures cancer. Tiger penis is thought to help sex drive, while the animal's bones are believed to cure arthritis and rheumatism. And animals such as the pangolin, a scaly anteater, are sought both for medicine and meat.
     
    But Steve Galster, director of the Bangkok-based Freeland Foundation, an anti-trafficking organization, notes a recent shift in the consumer demand. Elephant tusks and rhino horn in particular are being purchased for show rather than consumption.
     
    "According to our surveys, [it's predominantly] men between the ages of 25 and 45 who think it's a prestigious thing," he said. "Basically they want to show off that 'I've got this rhino horn; I've got this ivory tusk; I've got this tiger bone' or whatever."
     
    The increased demand for trophies has poachers slaughtering some of Africa's most endangered species at unprecedented rates. This has some conservationists worried that elephants and rhinos could go the way of Asia's wild tiger population, which has dwindled from around 100,000 to a few thousand over the past century. The tigers face possible extinction in the coming decade.
     
    Likewise, African wild rhinos used to number in the hundreds of thousands but there are now less than 30,000. As numerous news reports indicate, thousands of African elephants are poached annually for their ivory tusks.
     
    Some countries are toughening anti-poaching laws, but legislation in many African countries remains lenient and, for many in the trade, the benefits outweigh the costs.  
     
    With tusks fetching up to $2,000 per kilo, and comparable amounts of rhino horn commanding up to $50,000, China's black market alone offers global criminal syndicates enormously high profits that entail very low risk of criminal prosecution.
     
    This has turned the trade into a dangerous game.
     
    In the Congo basin alone, poaching gangs have killed roughly 100 wildlife officers in the past decade, according to Doug Goessman, Freeland Foundation's law enforcement advisor.
     
    "When you see a little ivory bauble that you've bought thinking ... it was old or from a legal elephant, no, it's from African elephants," he said. "Somebody may have died so that little piece of jewelry could have made it to Southeast Asia or to China or the United States."
     
    Although anti-poaching laws are gradually getting more restrictive across Asia, Galster said they are still not tough enough to deter smugglers.
     
    Customs and Excise Department officials address press conference following seizure of poached ivory, Hong Kong, November 16, 2012.Customs and Excise Department officials address press conference following seizure of poached ivory, Hong Kong, November 16, 2012.
    x
    Customs and Excise Department officials address press conference following seizure of poached ivory, Hong Kong, November 16, 2012.
    Customs and Excise Department officials address press conference following seizure of poached ivory, Hong Kong, November 16, 2012.
    "Loopholes and laws need to be closed, particularly in Thailand. Vietnam has some work to do as well," he said. "China has probably the strongest laws in the region."
     
    While trafficking authorities say China is making huge strides to crack down on wildlife smugglers, the country's robust economy, coupled with a population of 1.3 billion, means even a little demand goes a long way. So addressing the consumer base directly, Galster added, is critical.
     
    "We need to change behaviors, [and] that's going to take a while," he said. "In the meantime, frankly, we got to catch the traffickers that are taking advantage of this."
     
    Chinese authorities say they are doing just that.
     
    "In China, currently, the Asian illegal trade in big cats and rhino horn is completely under control," said Wan Zimin, chief of law enforcement and training at China's Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office. "The illegal trade in ivory is reducing [sic] step by step. ... Regarding pangolins, we have also gained control but still need strengthening."
     
    As a traditional consumer and exporter of wildlife, China, Wan added, will always need to satisfy some basic consumer demand. But he said the way that demand is satisfied could evolve.
     
    "There has already been a very big change in perspective," he said, proposing captive breeding as one potential way to undercut illegal trafficking.
     
    Still, a perfect solution remains elusive. Although captive breeding can be effective in meeting demand without killing wild populations, it remains controversial, and some critics say it actually increases demand by allowing the legal sale of rare animal parts.

    Listen to report on poaching by Daniel Schearf
    Listen to report on poaching by Daniel Schearf i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

     

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora