Illegal Ivory Traders Now Explore New Export Routes? (Tanzania)


?Arusha Times

Date Published

After a spirited campaign against China and other Asian countries for fueling wanton killing of endangered animals in Africa for their highly prized trophies, it has now emerged that poor controls in European Union (EU) were equally to blame for the carnage.

A report by a leading conservation charity based in the UK says thousands of products made from elephants and rhinos and other endangered species found their way into Britain and other EU countries due to poor controls at ports and airports.

According to findings of the report, carried by the Times of London (April 16th), an average of 2,500 illegal wildlife products are seized in the EU each year although experts estimate this constituted only 10 per cent of the total amount traded.

In Britain, more than 2,800 illegal wildlife products were seized by the UK Border Force between 2009 and last year, according to the report by Born Free Foundation, a charity based in the UK.

These included 1,165 ivory products 127 rhino horn items and 1,682 tiger products. Many of them were thought to be en route to the Far East, currently the main market for illegal animal products.

Tanzania was mentioned by the influential UK daily as one of the countries notorious for killing of wildlife for their trophies and cited last month’s incident in which 165 critically endangered turquoise dwarf geckos from Tanzania were seized at the Heathrow airport.

The consignment of chameleons, frogs and scorpions were impounded at Terminal 4 of the busy airport. A 41 year old man was arrested in Britain in connection with the haul and bailed until July.

Tanzania could account for a half of the estimated 20,000 elephants mowed down every year in the vast African continent, if figures released two years ago by the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism were anything to go by.

In 2013, it was revealed that up to 10,000 elephants were killed each year in Tanzania for their ivory by illegal hunters of the jumbos whose population is feared to have dropped from around 130,000 a decade ago to about 70,000 in that year.

During the Elephant and Rhino March held in Arusha last October, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu pleaded to China and other Asian countries to ban trade in ivory and other animal trophies in order to save the critically endangered animal species.

The report by the UK-based charity noted that the criminal gangs were now finding new ways of smuggling the items through – probably en route to the Far East – such as using wooden statutes to disguise ivory and in one case concealing ivory inside a parcel of ball bearings.

Gangs were also exploiting differences in rules between different EU member states through circumventing a French ban on the export of ivory outside the bloc by sending it to the Asian markets from Belgium.

The Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Austria and Sweden – arguably among the most influential EU member states – are now proposing that all countries should adopt the same rule banning the export of ‘raw ivory’.

“We need to send a strong message to the rest of the world that Europe is not open for business of illegal wildlife products”, remarked Will Travers, the President of Born Free Foundation.

Kenya, also most affected by ivory poaching is reported to have called on UK to stop being a gateway for smuggled animal products to the Asian markets. Equally shocking is rhino killing for their horns in South Africa from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 last year.