Ivory trade is one of the worst plagues in Africa that kills an estimated 35,000 of Africa’s elephants annually, about one-tenth the remaining population. The Continent is losing its wildlife heritage. Elephants and rhinos are on the verge of extinction because the killing is faster than their capacity of reproduce. Ivory illegal trade is often linked to terrorist groups like the Somali Al-Shabaab, the Nigerian Boko Haram and the Rwandan FDLR. They already have access to cross borders to smuggle people, drugs, minerals and guns. So, ivory is just another elicit substance that they can get cash from. Thank to these activities done by African terrorist groups much of the money from the ivory trade goes on to fund global terrorism and criminal networks. It’s always hard to get a handle on any black market, but, worldwide, the ivory trade is thought to be worth about $19 billion.
The first responsible of international ivory illegal trade is China with 42 tones purchased every year. Most of illegal ivory is smuggled raw and China has a significant domestic processing industry. Several western organizations are tring to inform the international opinion and fight against this crime. The majority of Western countries have banned ivory trade since 1991 and they are pushing to reinforce international ivory ban laws. In first position we find US. Last July President Barak Obama issued a Executive Orders committing the United States to step up its efforts to combat wildlife traffickers that reduces the economic, social, tourist and environmental benefits for many African countries.
Obama fight against illegal trade is something not new on White House. Since 1989 US has been one of the first countries to ban ivory trade. At that time Congress approved the African Elephants Conservation Act that limit ivory trade except antique handcraft. Twenty years ago U.S. has signed an international CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) treaty that partially banned ivory imports. On February 2014 the Presidential Direct Order 210 enforce the ivory ban except all antiques that has been imported and sold in US before February 26, 1976. As normal in a Unilateral World for Ivory issue Western Medias give to us an easy story. From one side the Bad Guys: China and other Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam that they are the major illegal ivory buyers and the first responsible of African elephants and rhinos extinction risks. From the other side we have the Good Guys: European countries and U.S. that have banned the ivory trade and they promote the fight against international trafficking.
As usually Propaganda crushes against the Reality. U.S. is one of the worldwide major illegal ivory markets country. The Ivory traded in US is more to the one traded in China. Between the two countries there is a strong economic relation. China is processing the ivory and U.S. import final objects “Made in China”. If China is on the top of ivory buyers U.S. is among the world’s biggest markets. The most famous U.S. classified advertisements website Craigslist is selling yearly $15 millions of ivory objects according a report redacted by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The two animal defense organizations have spent a week on Craigslist in 28 cities, surveying and find ivory products to buy. Just in five-day period (between March 16 and 20, 2015) 456 ivory products and 75 related wildlife products (such as elephant skin) has been sold on Craigslist for a combinated list price of at least $1.4 million. 6,600 ivory items are being sold on Craigslist each year. San Francisco and Los Angeles have the highest number of ivory products sold of any other geographic area in U.S. The majority of ivory products sold on Craigslist are made in China or in other Asian countries.
Peter LaFontaine, campaign officer for IFAW accuse Craigslist to don’t do enough to stop ivory and wildlife products trade online. Craigslist is just the head of the iceberg. Despite governmental propaganda Obama Administration pay little attention on domestic illegal ivory trade, which experts say is the first world largest market for Asian ivory products. The illegal trade in U.S. is largely unmonitored and the laws regulating the ivory trade are often antiquated and confusing. In addition ivory monitoring agencies are underfunded and chronically short-staffed. There are only 200 agents across the U.S. and a single ivory or rhino horn investigation can occupy up to 30 agents and take 18 months. The Ivory Trade Monitoring Agency has the same number of agents as it did in the late 1970s even though the illegal ivory trade has dramatically increased in U.S. between ‘90s and 2000s.
Raw material price in Africa is estimate to $750 per kilo. China processed ivory items are sold to U.S. and other international markets for $1,500 per kilo. U.S. traders are selling these items at $2,500 per kilo. An elephant tusk weighs 14 kilo on average. This means that for any elephant killed African traffickers earn $147,000, Chinese processor industries $249,000 and U.S. sellers $490,000. According to recent IFAW inquires more than 24,740 ivory carvings and 3,209 elephant trophies with two tusks a piece are illegally imported in U.S. between 2009 and 2012. This data have dramatically increased starting on 2013. Every month an average of $2.5 million is available for sale via online auctions. The illegal ivory coming in U.S. is normally claimed as legal ivory thanks to custom agents corruption and the poor ivory legislation. U.S. government has banned ivory coming from African elephants but not the one coming from Asian elephants. 100 years old ivory antiquities trade is permit as the ivory objects imported in U.S. before February 1976. For illegal ivory traders is very easy to declare Asian origin of African ivory or declare the ivory object imported before 1976 or an antique handcraft.
Generally U.S. government permit ivory sell without certification from authorities except for the antiquities. The seller is granted to certificate the products origin under its own legal responsibility. This presents a serious problem for law enforcement. During inquires of suspect illegal ivory even high-tech tools are not adequate to understand if the product is pre-ban or post-ban dated. Authorities can find almost impossible to identify an African elephant ivory from an Asian elephant one. The only possibility to determinate pre-ban and African elephant origin of ivory product is via expensive destructive lab test that are out of Government budget. The majority of ivory products are declared antiquities with false certificates offer by U.S. public authorities under corruption. A market that produce annually nearly $2 millions of illegal revenue for public agents.
In the majority of U.S. ports the custom authorities doesn’t inspect suspect ship ivory containers even under official information by U.S. citizen. Wildlife trafficking is not considered a serious crimes and the legal consequences are limited to fines till $100,000 and the product confiscation. Confiscated ivory products are not burn but sell on illegal market by corrupt governmental agents. Even the Government often authorize unnoticed confiscated ivory sells in order to have the necessary cash to finance illegal actions abroad against country considered U.S. enemies. Just has it’s done by confiscated narcotics. If China is the first supply of ivory for the American market the second are U.S. hunters that are sport-hunting elephants in some African countries. U.S. law forecast that if you shoot an elephant yourself on a game reserve that you have paid for, it’s a legal kill. You can bring tusks into the U.S. Ones the tusks are inside of the country the hunters can easily sell them on black market. These juridical protection is grant because in most of the case U.S. hunters are coming from the High Society, the famous 1% that rules the first and most important West “democracy”.
In Uganda the sport-hunting is managed by an Italian citizen former soldier and mercenary with the collusion of UPDF Generals. The part of high sport-hunting fee (around $8,000 per person) go on the Generals pockets in order to assure a easy and smoothly exportation without be
“The illegal ivory trade is a major U.S. internal problem even if historically U.S. Governments accuse others countries to be responsible and the show them at first place on the battle for species conservation” accuse Elizabeth Bennett, vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Pending implementation of measures proposed by Obama Administration last months one again doesn’t require for an item considered pre-ban ivory to be officially certified or documented and its sale does not need to be recorded. CITES certificate for antique ivory imported or exported from the U.S. is not obligatory. It’s sufficient an auto certification.
Ivory certification origin is easy to elude as the war mineral certification. This transform all law that not forecast a total ban in a pure governmental propaganda as the recent soft law on war mineral voted by E.U. Parliament and sold to public opinion as an historical conquer by bad faith politicians in order to increase their prestige and maintain their unjustified E.U. M.P. salaries.
All law on ivory, human trafficking and war minerals that are not touch the core of the problem: the Company and Government interests are designated to fail as the U.S. Frank-Dodd Act. Even the one-year ban on imports of ivory imposed by Beijing on February 2015 is more symbolic than effective. “In any case representing an important recognition by China of its role in the illegal ivory trade. China has been denying for a long time that the demand of ivory has been the cause of the killing of elephants”, observes Sammi Li, wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC spokeswoman.
International organization monitoring and free lance journalist reports are pushing the public opinion to pressing their governments to reinforce the ban laws and the consumer to become more responsible. Fearing the bad publicity many international online marketplaces like eBay or Etsy are willing cooperating with law enforcement to reduce wildlife trafficking on their platforms. Craingslist too has promise to cooperate. Unlucky these promises are originated by the same tricks of mineral Western Company that assure to buy only no war minerals from Africa. A mere propaganda because the 68% of African precious minerals are coming from Sudan, DRCongo, RCA, all famous war areas. In the case of ivory the online marketplace platforms know very well how it is hard to regulate the ivory market, because if you are a seller of ivory products it is just sufficient to take the word ivory out of your product’s description. The online marketplace platform will never investigate on your product and no one is ever going to know what really you are selling a part the interested buyers. According to Sammi Li the only solution is a straight international and domestic total ban. Any kind of commercial transaction of ivory object must become a crime for the sellers as for the consumers.
African head of state and international stakeholders recently gathered in Congo Brazzaville for a four-day conference of fighting wildlife crime in Africa. The event focused on developing an African-led strategy and action plan to combat the illegal trade of the continental natural resources. “African head of state are really intentioned to fight ivory illegal trade. The fact that so many African country are coming together to address this issue and to put it in their agenda is a clear demonstration of their goodwill. I think that this may be a turning point for wildlife in Africa. In several countries like Kenya an Ethiopia we can see a real improvement on ivory illegal market fight.”, declare Charly Facheux vice president of Conservation for the African Wildlife Foundation.
The first African country leader on Ivory trade is Botswana that has imposed an almost complete ban on hunting wildlife in January 2014. This decision was the consequence of the bad publicity that Botswana suffered on 2012 when the elephant hunting for pleasure hit global headlines when it come to light that Spain’s King Juan Carlos had been on a hunt in Botswana during his country’s economic crisis. A photograph of him posing with a rifle next to a dead elephant propped against a tree caused outrage event if safari companies say that hunting can be part of a wider conservation plan. Botswana police and army are really fighting the illegal ivory trade and traffickers. Botswana in two years only has become a sanctuary for elephants that are essentially political refugees, fleeing persecution in neighboring countries. After flying over the country for 100 hours, Mike Chase co-founder of Elephant Without Borders, calculate that 130,000 elephants live now in Botswana – of a total population in Africa of 470,000. “These animals are highly intelligent. When they are being disturbed in another area, they will move to where they know they are going to be save and protect”, Chase said. Environmental Minister Tshekedi Khama is determined to preserve Botswana’s record on protecting its elephants. “The elephants will find refuge in this country and we will continue to assist them because if we don’t look after our species who’s going to?” he said.