China Joins South Africa and Mozambique in Efforts to Curb Illegal


Wildlife Trade (Maputo, Mozambique, Johannesburg)

Date Published

Consecutive workshops hosted jointly by TRAFFIC and WWF, in
collaboration with the Chinese Government and supported by the
Governments of South Africa and Mozambique, respectively, have helped
raise awareness among Chinese nationals working in the two African
countries of regulations protecting wildlife and helped support
international efforts to reduce the demand for products of threatened

The two events, in Johannesburg and Maputo respectively, were
supported by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA), China
Customs, National Forestry Police, the Chinese embassies in South
Africa and Mozambique and the China International Contractors
Association (CICA). The SFA is China’s Management Authority (MA) for
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Around 200,000 Chinese nationals live in Johannesburg, the largest
city in South Africa and an important economic and financial centre,
while Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is a key port linking East
Africa to the rest of the world.

Against a backdrop of rising economic and trade exchange between
Africa and China, Chinese citizens have been implicated in a number of
cases of poaching and smuggling of African ivory, rhino horn and other
endangered wildlife products. Such cases undermine China’s
international reputation and wildlife conservation efforts in Africa.

Seventy Chinese nationals from State-owned enterprises, private
businesses and local residences in Mozambique and 70 in South Africa
attended the workshops, where representatives from the Chinese CITES
MA, China Customs and National Forestry Police spoke about wildlife
protection and management laws in China, CITES regulations and recent
smuggling cases, in order to discourage local Chinese nationals from
buying and carrying ivory and other endangered wildlife products to
China from Africa.

Su Jian, Chinese ambassador to Mozambique. Credit: TRAFFICSu Jian, the
Chinese ambassador to Mozambique, referred to legal cases involving
Chinese nationals, 70% of which were illegal timber- and wildlife
smuggling-related, which damaged the reputation of Chinese nationals
and that of their country. He requested local Chinese enterprises
improve their oversight, as if any Chinese staff working for them were
engaged in smuggling, the employer could be held partly responsible.
The workshops, by contrast, provided great opportunities for Chinese
enterprises and local communities to join in wildlife protection

TRAFFIC spoke about trends in African Elephant and rhino poaching and
the associated illegal ivory and rhino horn trades. It noted that
those convicted of wildlife crime faced harsh penalties in many
African countries. Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia have all recently
strengthened their penalties. In March this year, two Chinese
nationals convicted of illegally possessing 706 ivory tusks were each
sentenced to 30 years in gaol or the option to pay a fine of TZS54.7
billion (ca. USD25 million) by a district court in Tanzania. In 2014,
Mozambique increased its maximum penalties to USD90,000 or up to 12
years in gaol.

China has taken action too: earlier this year, the SFA announced the
extension of bans on ivory imports and a new one on the import of
pre-CITES ivory. The three bans will last to the end of 2019. Last
September China and the USA announced a joint commitment to tackle
illegal international ivory trade. Li Nan, a project manager with WWF,
spoke about China’s efforts to support wildlife conservation in Africa
under the framework of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
and China’s “One Belt One Road” strategy. Zhang Xiang, Deputy
Secretary General of the CICA, emphasized that Chinese corporates
should take their social and environment responsibility in Africa
seriously and introduced a document on Guidance for Chinese enterprise
business practices in Africa.

Zhang Shanning, the Enforcement Division Chief of China’s CITES MA,
said that wildlife conservation was a cause for all mankind, shared by
the international community, and that China stood ready to combat
illegal wildlife trade and its overseas citizens should take their
responsibility to comply with CITES and relevant national legislations

“We are coming from afar to Africa to deliver a simple but firm
message to Chinese people here: Do not engage in illegal wildlife
trade,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China office.

“If the crime and the demand that fuels it does not end, then attempts
to save Africa’s wildlife will be in vain.”

Another highlight of the workshops is the fact that the Mozambique
Branch of China Road and Bridge Corporation and South Africa Branch of
Sinohydro Group Ltd. made pledges on “Refusing illegal wildlife
trade”, representing other Chinese enterprises at the two workshops.

Up to approximately 30,000 African Elephants have been poached
annually in recent years, mainly in Central and Eastern Africa, while
rhino poaching has sky-rocketed. South Africa, home to around 80% of
Africa’s estimated 25,000 rhinos, has seen poaching rise from 13
animals as recently as 2007 to 1175 in 2015. Continent-wide, a record
1338 were poached in 2015.

These were the third and fourth communications workshops of their kind
jointly conducted by TRAFFIC and the SFA since the first held in Kenya
in January 2014 and one in Ethiopia last year.

The latest workshops were generously supported by GIZ on behalf of the
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation,
Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).