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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.