China has long been the greatest driving force in the trafficking of endangered species parts and ivory to fuel its traditional medicine market and jewelry market. We have discussed recent cases (here and here and here) of seizures of huge amounts of illegal animal parts going to China, which also set shocking records for pollution and contamination. Throughout these continual arrests and stories, the Chinese government simply insists that they are combatting such trafficking. Now however an environmental watchdog is accusing the government itself in trafficking. the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency says that Chinese officials used a state trip by President Xi Jinping and other high-level visits to smuggle ivory out of Tanzania. Worse yet, the Chinese are accused of using diplomatic bags to load huge amounts of ivory on planes as a government-maintained illegal trafficking operation.
China has never hidden its desire for ivory, even on the government level. In a very controversial move in 2008, Beijing was allowed to purchase 62 tons of ivory under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. China said that the ivory was needed to maintain its cultural industry of ivory carvers — an industry that obviously fuels the massacre of these animals. Poaching has now killed off half of Tanzania’s elephants and China remains the world’s largest importer of smuggled tusks.
The Chinese reportedly used corrupt Tanzanian officials to load the ivory into diplomatic bags on Xi’s plane during a presidential visit in March 2013. Notably, when confronted with the allegation, Meng Xianlin, director general of the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office of China, insisted “I don’t think there’s hard evidence, and I have not seen such cases.” Meng said EIA has been “unfriendly to China for quite some time.” Well all environmentalists have been “unfriendly to China for quite some time” since it is actively destroying rain forests around the world, polluting not just its own but other countries, and fueling the extinction of endangered animals.
EIA says that its investigators have been following the trafficking by Chinese diplomats in Tanzania since 2006. Two traders admitted to being thousands of kilograms of ivory for the trip by Chinese president. In 2013, a Chinese national was caught trying to met two Chinese naval officers at a port with 81 illegal tusks.
Notably, after the presidential trip, the price of ivory soared in Tanzania due to the sharp decline in supply after Chinese officials allegedly bought up the market.