Illegal trade in rhino horn thriving in China, NGO investigation reveals


Andrea Crosta, The Guardian

Date Published
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Rhinoceros horn can be easily bought in China despite it being illegal since 1993. The rhino horn products in antiques shop are far from antique. They are new and most likely been illegally trafficked from Africa to Vietnam and then into China.

A new report from Elephant Action League (EAL), Grinding Rhino: An Undercover Investigation on Rhino Horn Trafficking in China and Vietnam, shows how rhino horn makes its way into shops in China, the largest illegal market for rhino horn in the world. EAL’s 11-month investigation, called Operation Red Cloud, targeted the supply chain, exposing the players, the networks, and the means by which rhino horn is trafficked into China.

The report states that the black market for rhino horn is active throughout China, and Vietnam is the primary point of entry.

Rhino horn and other wildlife contraband is often smuggled from Vietnam to the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, or Yunnan province, via mountain trails or directly through official and unofficial ports. In Yunnan, dealers allegedly pay children aged 10-15 to smuggle products through Hekou port because children can avoid jail by paying small fines.

Some wildlife traffickers are openly banking on extinction. One trafficker told EAL that he expected business to dry up in five to 10 years because of a shortage of rhino horn.

The report also covers trafficking and sale of other wildlife products like ivory, tiger parts, and pangolins. Data gathered has been put in a confidential intelligence brief (CIB) which is being submitted to law enforcement authorities in China and Vietnam, and relevant US and international agencies.

It contains the names of key individuals, a mapping of network associates and enablers, the modus operandi of traffickers, and evidence of illegal activity uncovered during the investigation. The 200-page CIB includes hundreds of photos and hours of undercover footage, along with case files on 55 identified persons of interest.