African ivory trade to China thrives despite ban: report

Increased amounts of ivory from Africa are being smuggled from Myanmar into China, despite Beijing’s introduction this year of a ban on legal ivory sales, according to a report published on Tuesday (October 2) by the wildlife conservation group Save the Elephants.

The ban on the sale of ivory in China, the world’s largest importer and end user of elephant tusks, was cheered by wildlife activists as a vital step to reducing the slaughter of the endangered animals.

But the ban has not stopped what Save the Elephants called “prolific growth” in ivory trading in a town in the “Golden Triangle” area, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, south of China.

The report found that in the Myanmar-China border town of Mong La, the amount of new ivory items seen for sale has grown by more than 60 percent in the past three years. Ninety percent of the buyers are Chinese wishing to smuggle the ivory home.

Although sourcing of ivory from Myanmar’s 5,000 captive elephants — the largest population of its kind in the world, according to the group — is legal, ivory being traded in Mong La and elsewhere in the East Asian country is increasingly of illegal African origin.

Researcher Lucy Vigne said the items on sale now have increased compared to those on offer a few years back.

She co-authored the report with Esmond Bradley-Martin, a prominent American investigator of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade who was found dead in his Nairobi home with a stab wound in his neck in February. He had spent decades tracking the movement of animal products, mostly from Africa to markets in Asia.

Kenya burnt 15 tonnes of ivory in 2015 and another 105 tonnes in 2016, and promised to destroy all of its stockpile in its campaign against elephant poaching.

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