News / Asia

Manila Rhino Horn Bust Shows Smugglers' Resilience

Similar to a recent seizure by Philippines officials, part of a shipment of 33 rhino horns seized by Chinese customs agents displayed at news conference, Hong Kong, Nov. 15, 2011.
Similar to a recent seizure by Philippines officials, part of a shipment of 33 rhino horns seized by Chinese customs agents displayed at news conference, Hong Kong, Nov. 15, 2011.
Ivan Broadhead
HONG KONG—Authorities in the Philippines recently seized a consignment of rhino horn, which they believe was being shipped through Manila to China.
 
Environmentalists say the find highlights how adept crime syndicates are at exploiting new routes to smuggle endangered wildlife from Africa into Asia, and how resilient they are when it comes to writing off losses and evading arrest.
 
Rhino poaching in South Africa, 2007-2012Rhino poaching in South Africa, 2007-2012
x
Rhino poaching in South Africa, 2007-2012
Rhino poaching in South Africa, 2007-2012
According to Oliver Valiente, chief of the Philippines Customs Intelligence Investigation Service (CIIS), the consignment of horn was impounded at the Port of Manila in early September.
 
“This is the first time we have encountered rhinoceros horn," he said. "Six pieces were hidden in sacks of cashew nut."
 
Speaking by phone from Manila, where he and his team are investigating links to the illegal cargo, he says the seizure sets a disturbing new precedent. Concerned that the Philippines is becoming a new route in the global trade of endangered species, his groups is attempting to strengthen intelligence networks and gather information from counterparts in other countries.
 
"We hear there are Koreans, Chinese and other Asian [nationalities] buying rhino horn [in Manila's Chinatown]," he said. "There are stores here that suggest rhino horn is an aphrodisiac ... It is very, very lucrative.”
 
The six horns, valued at more than $1 million, are a significant catch — the majority of horns are typically believed to be smuggled into Asia one at a time in couriers’ suitcases.
 
CIIS suggests the consignment represents an exploratory effort by crime syndicates driving the rhino horn trade to open new smuggling routes from Africa into China, the world’s second-largest horn consumer after Vietnam.
 
According to Tom Milliken, director of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, Beijing has recently intensified efforts to stop the smuggling of rhino horn, elephant ivory and parts from other endangered wildlife.
 
Although still fighting major contraventions, China has introduced new legislation to control online sales of rhino horn. Officials have also sent additional security forces to guard their border with Vietnam in an effort to control cross-frontier smuggling.
 
In a little-reported operation in April, 100,000 law enforcement officials deployed across the country, shutting down thousands of dealers in illegal wildlife. Meanwhile, Vietnam has not impounded a single rhino horn since 2008.
 
“China is targeting cargo from certain places in Africa," said Milliken. "Being able to move a container into the Philippines, change the documentation and make it appear as if it is coming from an Asian country has been a technique organized crime has used to try to safeguard their illicit cargo from detection.”
 
The Manila specimens, Milliken says, were likely removed from animals killed in South Africa, where authorities have worked hard to tackle rhino poaching despite considerable challenges.
 
Although South Africa has appointed attorneys who specialize in prosecuting rhino-related crimes and stiffened court sentences — convicted poachers and traffickers face up to 40 years in jail — their efforts are being undermined.
 
“Some Asian syndicates have shifted their operating bases to neighboring countries like Mozambique, where there is less chance of detection," said Milliken. "This is a worrying development … organized crime is very quick to adapt.”
 
Legal scholar Julie Ayling of Australia National University agrees. Last month she published a study on the resilience of organized crime syndicates behind the rhino horn trade.
 
In much the same way legitimate businesses factor in regulatory costs, says Ayling, so the gang behind the Manila shipment would have factored in the cost of customs agents intercepting the six horns.
 
“If the costs get too great, the crime group will reassess what they’re doing and adjust their business model," she said. "This could be a minor adjustment like changing a trafficking route or a major one involving a whole new way of doing business, or a whole new commodity. This is what I mean when I say criminal groups exhibit ‘resilience’.”
 
Ayling says governments and grassroots communities, public and private sectors, all need to work together to develop a coordinated response to fighting rhino crime.
 
But first and foremost, she believes, law enforcement agencies need to delve further into the structures of these criminal groups, if the rhino is to beat extinction.
 
“We need to understand these networks better," she said, explaining that they seem to spring into being. "It is amazing we do not have a good understanding of how they get together and form alliances — how they meet and form trust, how they actually operate in terms of their criminal activities.”
 
In South Africa, up to two rhino are believed to be killed by poachers each day, snared or shot and the horn hacked from the animal’s head while it is still alive.
 
At the current rate, experts believe the world’s last rhino in the wild could be dead by 2025. In the meantime, Philippine authorities remain vigilant as the illegal trade continues to escalate.

Listen to report on poaching
Listen to report on poachingi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

 

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Abhi Kulkarni from: USA
December 04, 2012 11:58 AM
I do not trust that China is actually doing anything to curb smuggling. They are promoting a new ivory carving school, it's CITES rep has asked for authrorizing sale of legal as well as poached ivory and majority of ivory trade online in China is from poached ivory.


by: For Tomorrow from: USA
December 04, 2012 12:15 AM
The illegal wildlife trade has grown to disastrous proportions. Take a moment to thank US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her recent work in combatting the illegal wildlife trade! It's important to show politicians that we support wildlife protection efforts!

http://www.change.org/petitions/secretary-of-state-hillary-rodham-clinton-thank-you-for-leading-the-fight-against-the-illegal-wildlife-trade

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid