A common denominator that seems to be popping up in every one of my blogs is China.
The demand for rhino horns, elephant tusks, tiger parts and much more is one of the main reasons for the slaughter of hundreds, if not thousands, of animals. Organized crime groups in these certain countries are linking up and moving their poached materials around until they finally rest in China. A vast majority of the illegal trade is ivory. Experts say that as much as 70% of ivory is flowing to China. The Chinese have coveted ivory for years but not many could afford it. China’s big economic boom over the last few years has created a large middle class. This has pushed the price of ivory to $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing. Officers in the Chinese army like to have ivory trinkets as gifts. They also use ivory to make chopsticks, bookmarks, rings, cups and combs.
“China is the epicenter of demand,” said Robert Hormats, a senior U.S State Department official. “Without the demand from China, this would all but dry up.”
He also stated that Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was pushing the ivory issue with the Chinese, and that she would spend a lot of time and effort to go after this issue in a bold and effective way.
A big reason tusks and ivory is in such a huge demand in China is because they use it for medication. In certain Asian countries, ground rhino horn is used to cure almost everything. Whether it really works or not has been a source of debate for some time. No matter if it does or does not, horns and tusks have been a medical component for thousands of years. In East Africa, the statistics of rhino poaching have been kept since 1926. During the 1930’s, it is estimated that around 3,520 pounds (555 rhinos) was sent to China. During War World II, the numbers soared to 5,500 pounds (860 rhinos). The 1950’s and 60’s saw a drop to around 3,960 pounds (600 rhinos), but the number climbed again in the 70’s with 7,480 pounds (1,180 rhinos).
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Hong Kong was the world’s largest importer of rhino horn. Although it was banned in 1979, they still found a way to smuggle it in from Macao, Burma, Indonesia, India, Taiwan and South Africa. In 1987, government parties tried to shut down trade of rhino products completely. British Prime Minister at the time, Margret Thatcher promised the ban would take effect later on that year. This never happened of course.
Most of the Taiwanese millionaires today, are famous for their illegal trade of rare and exotic wildlife and most of it comes from South Africa. The scarcity of horns and tusks today is only driving the price higher. These millionaires are aware of this and are buying them solely for an investment.
But there are some Chinese who are trying to stop this. Here is an article on how former NBA star Yao Ming is helping to urge his fellow Chinese to put a stop to poaching. Star Power
It’s not just tusks and horns they are after either. Just a few days ago, the Korean Coast Guard are seeking out warrants for 11 Chinese crewmen and fishermen who were involved in illegal fishing. Warrants Out for Illegal Fishermen
However; China has also been a victim of poaching. The Chinese giant panda is facing threats of extinction. In the 1980’s and 90’s, there were large cases of panda poaching, but this has declined due to strict laws and greater public awareness. The threat to pandas today are due to their living environments getting smaller due to logging, expansion of farming into forest areas, mining and road building. People poaching other animals cause a threat also. Traps set for others may accidentally kill a panda.
Before 1997, it was possible that if you were caught and convicted of killing a panda, you could receive the death penalty and some were actually executed. Today however, the most severe penalty is serving 10 years in prison.
There recently has been an outbreak of poaching some of China’s migratory birds. Here is an article that was written one day ago about it. Bird Poaching
Even though there are parts of China that participate in illegal trade of poached animals from other countries, some Chinese are still very passionate about poaching not happening on their land. 3 days ago, the Chinese police arrested 11 people for allegedly poaching animals near the China virgin forest. They also seized a large amount of bear parts and antelope corpses. The police found 17 bear paws, 5 bear gall bladders and more than 300 kg of bear meat, as well as musk deer skin. Most bears are under protection, but their gall bladders and paws have been used as expensive ingredients in.. yet again.. Chinese medicine. Animal right activists are calling out for alternatives to bear parts.
China receives a lot of media attention.. good and bad.. due to poaching. Poaching has been a part of China for a while, but hopefully more press like the one with Yao Ming can help stop China from killing many precious and exotic animals, and help them think about the other environments they are hurting. They obviously don’t like it done to their environment so the media needs to show them that they can’t do it to others, especially those countries less fortunate than they are.
By: Abigail Tackett