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Daniel Foster
Daniel Foster

Official Complicity In Mozambican Elephant Slaughter


Of the elephants slaughtered on orders from the administrator during the past four years, neither the park administration nor the provincial directorate of agriculture of Cabo Delgado received any ivory. These facts were confirmed by both institutions.




Official complicity in Mozambican elephant slaughter



During the conflict from 1977 to 1992, fighters on both sides slaughtered elephants for ivory to finance war efforts. In the region that's now Gorongosa National Park, around 90% of the elephants were killed.


In Deep River, these artifacts are a source of civic pride, but pride that's also tinged with shame, especially as the world condemns the current slaughter of elephants to make trinkets. Daniels, for one, says if Americans are going to condemn others for trading in ivory, they should at least know their own history. "We were the largest importer of tusks anywhere in the world," she says passionately. "So we have a special responsibility and we have a unique opportunity to say, 'We are sorry we have done this, but we want in some way to help stop the slaughter now.' "


All of this money finances the most horrific crimes. It is the money that purchases the AK-47s and G3s and even M16s used to kill elephants and any rangers who get in the way. It is the money used to pay smugglers and middlemen. It is the money used to corrupt officials and bribe freight forwarding agents. It is the money used to pay the LRA, Janjaweed and others in exchange for ivory so they can continue with their genocides and child soldier recruitments and abductions.


Paul Ronan, who was in South Sudan and the CAR at the end of 2012, says that some of the media reports of massive killings of elephants by the LRA are clearly exaggerated, but that wildlife officials from the Garamba reserve in northern DRC, and escaped LRA abductees, say that the group has been killing elephants in Garamba on the orders of Kony and taking the ivory to his current base on the border of South Sudan and Darfur. Ronan believes the LRA does not have an established income from this, but may be using the ivory to reward Darfuri officials who are enabling them to remain in the region.


From South Sudan, where conservationists say elephants are being slain by both government forces and rebels, to South Africa, where more than three rhinos are poached every day, there is an arc of illegal animal slaughter across the region.


There have also been allegations of official complicity. In November, Tanzania denied allegations by a campaign group that Chinese officials smuggled out large amounts of illegal ivory in diplomatic bags during a state visit by President Xi Jinping.


The international deliberations over the measures required to prevent the serious decline in elephant numbers almost always ignored the loss of human life in Africa, the fueling of corruption, the "currency" of ivory in buying arms, and the breakdown of law and order in areas where illegal ivory trade flourished. The debate usually rested on the numbers of elephants, estimates of poached elephants and official ivory statistics.[7] Activists such as Jim Nyamu have described current ivory prices for poached ivory and the dangers such activists face from organized poaching.


Tanzania, attempting to break down the ivory syndicates that it recognized were corrupting its society, proposed an Appendix One listing for the African Elephant (effectively a ban on international trade). Some southern African countries including South Africa and Zimbabwe were vehemently opposed. They claimed that their elephant populations were well managed and they wanted revenue from ivory sales to fund conservation. Although both countries were implicated as entrepôts in illegal ivory from other African countries, WWF, with strong ties to both countries, found itself in a difficult position. It is well documented that publicly it opposed the trade but privately tried to appease these southern African states.[4][7] However, the so-called Somalia-Proposal, presented by the governmental delegation of the Republic of Somalia, of which nature protection specialist Prof. Julian Bauer was an official member, then broke the stalemate and the elephant moratorium with its ban of elephant ivory trade was adopted by the CITES delegates.


South Africa's claim that its elephants were well managed was not seriously challenged. However, its role in the illegal ivory trade and slaughter of elephants in neighbouring countries was exposed in numerous news articles of the time, as part of its policy of destabilisation of its neighbours. 95% of South Africa's elephants were found in Kruger National Park[17] which was partly run by the South African Defence Force (SADF) which trained, supplied and equipped the rebel Mozambique army RENAMO.[18] RENAMO was heavily implicated in large-scale ivory poaching to finance its army.[17][19][20][21]


Born Free Foundation CEO Will Travers said that, "Even if we managed to close down all the unregulated markets around the world, there would still be a demand for illegal ivory coming from countries such as China and Japan."[6] To demonstrate the lack of ivory controls in China, the EIA leaked an internal Chinese document showing how 121 tonnes of ivory from its own official stockpile (equivalent to the tusks from 11,000 elephants) could not be accounted for, a Chinese official admitting "this suggests a large amount of illegal sale of the ivory stockpile has taken place."[16][41][42] However, a CITES mission recommended that CITES approve China's request, and this was supported by WWF and TRAFFIC.[43] China gained its "approved" status at a meeting of the CITES Standing Committee on 15 July 2008.[44][45] China's State Council has announced that China is banning all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. The commercial processing and sale of ivory will stop by 31 March 2017.[46] The announcement was welcomed by conservation group WWF, who called it a "historic announcement... signalling an end to the world's primary legal ivory market and a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis."[47]


Major centers of ivory trafficking in Vietnam include Mong Cai, Hai Phong and Da Nang.[61] One of the major traffickers of illegal ivory from Togo is a Vietnamese, Dao Van Bien.[62] A 22-month sentence was imposed.[63] In terms of retail trade of elephant ivory, Hong Kong is the largest market in the world, and has been criticised for fueling the slaughter of elephants to meet the demand of customers principally from mainland China.[64] A 101 East report named Hong Kong as "one of the biggest ivory laundering centres in the world [where] legitimate operations are used to mask a far more sinister, more lucrative business".[65] 95 kilograms (209 lb) of elephant ivory was confiscated at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris from two Vietnamese who were arrested by French customs.[66]


Claims of a link between terrorism and the ivory trade have been made by a number of public officials and media outlets. NGO reports cited an anonymous source within the militant organization Al-Shabaab who claimed that the group engaged in the trafficking of ivory. The claim that Al-Shabaab received up to 40% of its funding from the sale of elephant ivory gained further attention following the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.[81]


Previous enforcement lapses in Mozambique include the theft of wildlife products and the apparent complicity of government agencies. On 27th February 2012, 266 pieces of elephant ivory, totalling 1,094.34 kg, were stolen from the central ivory stockpile in Maputo, which lies within the Ministry of Agriculture building on a busy downtown street in the bustling capital. The Ministry for Coordination of Environmental Affairs and the National Directorate of Environmental Management first reported the theft publicly in April 2012. No arrests were made and the case has never been solved. Several instances of wildlife products finding their way back into illegal trade have been documented. In one notorious case, a Vietnamese national was arrested in late May 2012 with seven rhino horns at Maputo International Airport boarding a Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi. A few days later he was again arrested with seven rhino horns at Bangkok Airport following his arrival on a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi. Mozambique is also failing under its international obligations as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Under CITES there is a mandatory requirement to report all government-held ivory stockpiles. Mozambique, an African Elephant range State, has failed to report its stocks in 2014 and 2015.Mozambique is currently the subject of a CITES Decision requiring it to take steps to implement CITES provisions effectively related to rhinos, including the enactment and implementation of penalties to control wildlife crime effectively, as well as the development of a national rhino action plan. Progress on these is expected to be reported at the 66th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in January 2016. In April 2014, Mozambique signed a Memorandum of Understanding with neighbouring South Africa on engagement in wildlife management, in particular with respect to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching. 350c69d7ab


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