Environmentalism - Chapter 25 - Understanding Poaching
It is without a doubt that Asia is the number one peddler in illegal animal parts trade that spans from China to Vietnam, Thailand to Malaysia and, India to Egypt. We have all viewed from time to time animal parts traded on the streets in Hanoi or within Hong Kong but how bad is the trade in other nations that are not necessarily always placed under the spot light or even asked to curb their illicit and illegal organised traders?
The illegal wildlife trade in Asia is mostly viewed in processed format in medicine shops and street vendors which is rarely seen in raw format of which we have explained on many occasions within this five part written documentary.
But who are the other peddlers and transporters/couriers? And how is it finding its way back into the market from those that confiscated it who are supposed to be trusted law abiding citizens, to traveling from Africa into Asia, and who are the distributors, and what routes are being taken to even companies being used to transport it unknowingly and corruptively?.
These are the many questions that are difficult to answer unless intense investigations, covert intelligence is gathered to operations outside of Africa are ordered that can be intensively frustrating, tiring, dangerous but rewarding once one hits the sources the areas that need one hundred per cent attention which in turn leads to arrests via monitoring the spider web of depict and corruption from the buyer, to the poacher, from poacher to disturber and then couriers and peddlers to the common market and more.
The illegal wildlife trade is so complex it can take years to infiltrate, befriending highly sophisticated governmental or military trained criminals of which you’re on your own in no man’s land not knowing if your position or colleagues position could be compromised at any minute placing your life in danger to the entire 1-5+ year operation and intelligence gathering at a dead end.
Many organisations never reveal such intelligence work and gathering simply because we are dealing with government run armed and highly volatile individuals that are only after monetary gain. Should one disrupt that gain and “your” position is compromised then the entire criminal syndicate gangs descend lower in the black market placing more critically endangered species of flora and fauna in jeopardy of extinction.
It’s frustrating when one reports wildlife crime knowing that the nations that one has been viewing and investigation on, just simply turn a blind eye or are not willing to order law enforcement to take imminent and immediate action to shut these traders down. However working in great detail, and gathering years of evidence then proving this work can be very rewarding to knocking out a syndicate thus destroying the entire communication web which in turn preserves our biodiversity more as each mission concludes.
Asia and United Arab Emirates in particular (part off Asia) is one area that we have been scrutinising now for some time as of recent confiscations and arrests in 2011 and 2012 and recent surveys that we have looked into and freedom of information requests, requested that has taken us over six months to almost a year to obtain from very reluctant but proud nations that find such findings of crime that is then independently reported embarrassing (hence why one has to tread with caution to respecting those that we are working with to ascertain positive and rewarding conclusive results).
Within Dubai September 2012 Dubai customs foiled an attempt to smuggle 215 pieces of ivory in to the nation within an estimated value of 15 million dirhams which is Dubai currency. The seizure was hidden in “company haulage” as usual with most large illegal importations and was seized at the port of Jebel Ali.
Yet again the shipments where all from African states, of which the shipment was concealed in food containers that had white beans within them, the ships contents had come from the farming areas of South Africa”. Why these ports are not checked within South Africa and Africa alone of which we have been tipping individuals off with regards to movements we simply don’t know however most are then seized when entering Asia mainly by sea.
On scanning the containers in Jebel Ali it showed concealed within white bean shipments from Africa the ivory of which only one woman was subsequently arrested and charged under the illegal importation of wildlife parts. Once the crates where taken apart and the seizure added up experts quoted that 108 Elephants where slaughtered for these tusks which is emotionally upsetting and frustrating. The report can be viewed here http://www.emaratalyoum.com/local-section/accidents/2012-11-11-1.525674
Within the United Arab Emirates ivory is big business on the black market of which is rarely sold within shops and malls. Any ivory that is sold is “apparently antique” I suppose this buy and sell site is all antique too of which the users brag on how much they can obtain http://statigr.am/p/388457701835017907_256232306 http://statigr.am/p/359200723472485744_256232306
There is not much call for the Rhinoceros horn in the United Arab Emirates of which brings very little money or interest, however, ivory is a completely different story which can sell just for one delicately carved set of beads up to and beyond $25,000 and for a single hand and machine carved ivory horn in the most intricate of detail.
A single horn can fetch up to $100,000 that are mostly sold in hotels, back street markets, classified advertisements using fake names and details to people’s homes. This piece of ivory that would have been lathed then delicately carved by master craftsmen http://statigr.am/p/376159101687947701_224452295 is being sold within a hotel which gives the description “Exquisitely carved ivory and accurate located in Asia at Hotel Yuexiu # # China” as you can see in this link http://www.agoda.com/asia/china/guangzhou/yuexiu_hotel.html the hotel that these dealers are using will be financed of which businessmen in the medicine and antique trade are most likely linked to triad gangs and highly lucrative and organised trade.
Fourteen days ago another arrest this time outside of the U.A.E of which a police officer was caught smuggling ivory into Thailand from Malaysia. The haul was located in the boot of the suspects’ car hidden inside fertilizer bags. A total of 20 Elephant tusks where located of which both the driver and the police officer where arrested. Please view the report here http://www.alriyadh.com/2013/02/04/article807332.html
Moving back into Africa reports on the 8th February 2013 quoted the following;
Defence ministry said on Friday Ugandan troops found large amounts of ivory in a cache of rebel leader Joseph Kony of the LRA leader Ugandan militant in the Central African Republic. Chasing Uganda with the support of experts U.S. military, the law enforcement rebel group hopes to arrest Kony and other fighters required for trial for war crimes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Kony has been accused by groups within the nature conservation society that LRA Ugandan hard line elements of the Ugandan army have been ordered to kill elephants for illegal international traffic in ivory to finance their operations, however, Uganda has denied any involvement in it.
As explained in the previous documentation the sales and trade of ivory unless it is antique and has permits of which peddlers rarely do is sold mainly on the internet and is making large money mainly in Egypt which we wouldn’t of known had we not delved deeper into the Rhinoceros horn trade although we was expecting it.
These marketers know that what they are doing is illegal and could earn them a hefty prison sentence, however where there is money there is happiness and most if not all of those that are peddling in illegal custom made ivory don’t even realise that the Elephant has to DIE for ivory jewellery or other intricate pieces of handmade craftsmanship. This Egyptian buy and sell classified sales site is selling more ivory here http://egypt.souq.com/eg-en/%D8%B9%D9%82%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AC-%D8%B7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%89-%D8%A3%D8%B5%D9%84%D9%89-3932364/i/
E-Bay has been repeatedly cautioned and educated on the sales of ivory of which most is illegal to sell however it is still present to even data on how to “spot fake ivory to the real thing” http://reviews.ebay.com/How-To-Tell-Authentic-Ivory-From-Fake?ugid=10000000003245884
The Jimbiya http://www.ebay.com/itm/Yemen-style-JAMBIYA-with-horn-handle-exceptional-quality-/261172218651?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3ccf13cb1b are crafted mainly in Yemen that is given to mature teenage boys when they reach adulthood. Although the practice is fairly unheard of it still sadly exists and the Rhinoceros are slain for this simple “horn” knife that in reality [wood] handles could be used instead of which the real deal is priced at a staggering $272.0, and that’s cheap compared to newer hand-made items.
Tiger balm is now said to be non-Tiger part containing of which (some) “is” that will have mostly simple healing properties in such as herbal menthol heating agents that one applies to the skin that you can in reality purchase alternative products over the pharmaceutical counter for as little as $5.00 or on prescription.
However “with no methods” of checking the marketers are keeping to strict wildlife/importation and exportation laws then items like these can easily be mixed alongside others of which you’ll never know whether your purchasing “herbal” or actual dead Tiger which is strictly prohibited. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2047675.m570.l1311.R9&_nkw=tiger+balm&_sacat=0&_from=R40
Tiger bone wine is yet again another illegal property that’s highly craved for in Thailand. http://www.forum.munkonggadget.com/detail.php?id=43566 It’s classed as rare to locate however that’s untrue and whilst the “just legal” zoo’s in Asia that keep Tiger’s carry on breeding them then we will continue to view this illegal item on the market.
Ivory and Rhinoceros horn up for sale again on Facebook http://www.rumruay.com/tag-%E0%B8%99%E0%B8%AD%E0%B9%81%E0%B8%A3%E0%B8%94.%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%A3%E0%B8%B0%E0%B9%80%E0%B8%9E%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%B0%E0%B8%9B%E0%B8%A5%E0%B8%B2.%E0%B9%82%E0%B8%AA%E0%B8%A1%E0%B9%80%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%AB%E0%B8%A5%E0%B8%B5.html
It’s virtually impossible to locate then follow too investigate the entire trade route for many reasons that I have highlighted below briefly.
- All 176 registered CITES nations that have signed the CITES agreement have no real formal environmental police units. They are though all obliged to keep the laws of which Asia is failing too.
- Co-operation from both investigators, customs and freight yards to local police and international law enforcements agencies can be awkward to build relations, good rapport and communication, there is also language barriers and lack of the correct investigative individuals that are non-experienced to non-linguistic which is high priority in monitoring the trade route thus killing demand.
- Investigation units are concerned that they could be actually giving information to “the criminals themselves” that are being paid by wildlife part smugglers to allow trade to pass unchecked through customs thus compromising the entire operation to months if not years of painstaking funded work.
- Trade routes change daily to monthly, along with shipping and airline transport.
- Investigation teams need the full cooperation of customs and law enforcement.
- Wildlife counter intelligence teams are relatively small and rely on funds that they/we need to keep tabs on the criminal’s activity to travelling abroad. Africa and Asia are also massive in square mile footage and knowing where the syndicates are storing within what ports ready for shipment is like looking for a needle a haystack.
- Vessels are routinely tampered with by syndicate gangs that open up and construct concealed compartments. This method of concealment was first used by narcotic gangs in North America of which the Asian syndicates have now caught onto using this as a way to smuggle out and in wildlife part contraband.
The scale of the illegal wildlife trade is alarming. Due to the nature of illicit trade, it is hard to obtain exact figures, but some experts estimate the value of the illegal wildlife trade at 10-20 billion US dollars annually the actual figures that International Animal Rescue Foundation © have from a recent FOIA for 2012 December end are now at 17.7 billion US dollars. While arrests and interceptions are on the rise, they expose only a small fraction of this underground criminal enterprise.
The illegal wildlife trade affects all Southeast Asian nations. The rich biodiversity’s of Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar are particularly targeted. Smugglers are frequently caught utilizing transport links through Thailand and Vietnam. However, poaching, transit and consumption occurs in all countries to varying degrees. A significant proportion of wildlife trafficked through Southeast Asia is purchased by wealthy consumers outside the region, in China, Europe and the United States.
Starling scientific facts;
- Massive and irrevocable biodiversity loss - If trends continue, recent predictions show that 13-42% of Southeast Asia’s animal and plant species could be wiped out this century. At least half those losses would represent global extinctions.
- Degradation of natural ecosystems and essential environmental services - Poaching to supply wildlife trade disturbs delicate biological balances. Knock-on effects can precipitate the unravelling of living ecosystems that underpin fresh water supply and food production. With predictions of severe impacts from a changing climate, reducing other man-induced pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems, such as poaching, is imperative.
- Human health is endangered by unregulated trade in wild animals that can spread and pass on viruses and diseases (there have been recent [unconfirmed reports] that Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder has been (linked) in Asian children to the consumption of Rhinoceros horn by from gestating women. There are no other links outside of Asia that show this and this report has yet to be confirmed as 100% accurate by professional American and European scientists
Some interesting facts here that we can also look upon to be prepared to for a possible poaching incident;
- High profile business trips in Asia mainly China, Vietnam and Thailand will see more wildlife parts ordered of which more men at a rate of 20% will consume and women 13%.
- People in Asia mainly, China, Vietnam and Thailand between the ages off 24-44 years of age will consume more wildlife parts (over that age the rate is just 9% from 45-60 years of age with no real percentage of after that consuming.
- Normal friends and family gathering days will see 31% of Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai’s consuming animal parts of which again females are the most consumers at 33% and males at 30% the age group those that consume the most at gatherings and normal meals are in the age group of 45-60 years of age.
- Festivals and events for example Chinese New Year we would usually see more animals slaughtered in Africa however this is not the case, a total of 29% in China, Vietnam and Thailand consume animal parts at festivals. Males at 28% and females at 29% are the most consumers. Those that are more likely to consume are in between the ages of 18-24 at 32%
- The most shocking though of which we would off thought the medicine trade would be the more likely area to probe to hit the demand and send the message home is in fact wrong. The food trade is the most concerning area. Please read the statistics for requested survey information. This is JUST from MEALS every day. 50% of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai’s consume more animal parts for their everyday staple diet ruling out that the medicine trade is in fact the largest “problem here”. Male and females stand both at 50% consumption. 18-24 year olds eat a staggering and consume 58% in all three nations that’s (58% per nation). 23-34 years of age stands at 50%,35-44 years of age stands at 51% consumption and 45-60 stands at 42% (This is rather concerning of which can be more easily talked to beat demand than going for the pharmaceutical businesses that are reluctant to help).
- The consumption of wildlife parts though in the medicine trade I.e. Traditional Chinese Medicine is very shocking as we did truly believe that in all three nations that the TCM/TIM trade would be the most out of all consumption (we were wrong and this is now concerning) the following figures stand at 6% whereas consuming in (food) stands at a skyrocketing 50%. More Asians are NOT relying on TCM for medicine – 2% males still consume with (-) no percentage of females consuming for medicine. HOWEVER between the ages of 18-24 are the [highest] users with 5% using illegal animal parts in TCM/TIM.
The following survey was taken in high streets, shopping malls, online surveys, and basic door to door over a period of 12 months. Who is driving the food trade? Are there food manufactures placing illegal animal parts within Asia that need to be targeted? And if there is only based on recent and VERY accurate figures only 5% of 18-24 year olds consuming illegal wildlife trade then we need to seriously start targeting these individuals to drive down demand through awareness and education.
The trade routes;
The illegal wildlife trade routes start in Africa and are networking from the following regions;
- Southern Africa and Central Africa are the main TRADE routes that then move to the ports of mainly South Africa. DR Congo, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania see’s routes forming that travel to the South Africa again, Tanzania, and Kenya (These shipping ports and airports have been for the past 9 months of some interest to us)
- Both Southern and Central African routes are not “always” moving straight through to China as we did realise but are in fact traveling direct to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore and Burma
- Based on intelligence more illegal animal parts are/have been moving from South Africa in to India that then travel from India into Vietnam, Burma, and China.
- Following the main trade routes from central and southern Africa smuggled animal parts then end up in traveling into “South East Asia” as well this is another separate trade route used by smugglers to take the long route into main land China and Japan. This type of trade route could also be seen as “drop of zones” to sell and then distribute further
- Northern India is a very large focal point from which animal parts go direct from South Africa being that the main ports in to India then moving into China.
The following listed above is based on “snippets” of intelligence that we have acquired of which we cannot place into the public domain any furthering information on this. However we are not satisfied at the lack of cooperation from customs and excise in Africa that must as a CITES signatory take imminent and immediate action to cease all illegal wildlife parts from moving in and out of the ports, improve security in the ports, move corruptive individuals out via internal company investigations and communicate freely with others to combat trade moving into Asia thus decreasing demand greatly.
Shipping container ports of interest that are and have moved illegal wildlife parts out of South Africa to Asia are listed below;
- Richards Bay
- East London
- Port Elizabeth
Shipping container ports of interest that are and have moved illegal wildlife parts out of Kenya to Asia are listed below;
Alternative container ports of interest that have moved illegal wildlife parts out of Africa in “general” into Asia – Please note these are (covering all trade routes of interest that are moving high quantities of [ivory, Rhinoceros horn, Pangolin meat, and other critically endangered parts]
- Harare (is linked to container ports)
The following listed are moving illegal animal parts out of Africa of which needs thorough intense monitoring, updated security, corruption removed, communication intelligence networks placed within, regular updates on vessels that are moving in and out of ports to cease and hit demand before it enters Asia. Carrying out such scrutinising, surveillance, and regular checks on vessel modifications one can then view who the large couriers are thus terminating [the middle connection] immediately and increasing arrest rates.
We are more than aware that half of the seized Ivory and Rhinoceros horn that travels through these ports is not being “kept where it should within Asia” and then ends up back on the illegal market.
There is plenty of proof on this via internet and ground intelligence that Operation Trojan Horse carries out daily. We have not included China as we truly believe to cease the demand, the demand has to stop IN AFRICA and FULL STOP!
Areas of interest are as follows;
- Port Gentil
- Banul [least concern]
- Walvis bay [least concern]
- Luderitz [least concern]
- Warri [least concern]
- Port Harcourt
- Zanzibar region
- Dar-es Salaam region
It must be remembered that there is a huge legal market for wild plants and animals – a market which the illegal trade undercuts, supplants and exploits. Unscrupulous individuals, rogue traders and criminal gangs all threaten sustainable and responsible businesses that provide vital income to some of the world’s poorest countries. The global legal trade in wildlife resources was estimated in the early 1990s to be worth nearly US$159 billion a year in export value. Sixty five per cent of this trade involves timber exports (worth US$104 billion), with fisheries exports constituting a further 25 per cent (US$40 billion).
Trade in live animals, plants, products and derivatives were therefore estimated to be worth approximately US$15 billion annually. The legal trade in protected species broadly flows from range areas – where the species come from – to consumer areas. Some are both significant consumer and range areas. The situation is made more complex by a thriving trade in captive-bred or artificially propagated specimens, which may be farmed in non-range areas and traded internationally. The involvement of intermediate destinations and the consequent re-export trade further complicates the picture and opens up opportunities for illegal trade.
Illegal trade in wildlife is often not conducted directly between range area and consumer area, but specimens may be transported to a variety of intermediate destinations. As with many types of international trade, intermediate destinations are a common feature of illegal wildlife trade routes and can serve five broad functions:
- Funnel locations where shipments are bulked for longer-haul journeys.
- Stop overs and convenient ports – these may be ports where illegal wildlife shipments are switched between different modes of transport. For instance, shipments might be switched between surface and air transport.
- Processing centres – where products made from wildlife are manufactured
- Transhipment centres and “free” trade areas – countries where porous borders, weak legislation and lax enforcement allow the illegal import and export of wildlife to continue unhindered, and provide suitable transhipment locations for wildlife trafficking
- Regional distribution centres – these are close to final destinations and provide places where bulk shipments are broken down into smaller consignments and transported on to the consumer market.
Technique’s to avoid customs and excise is highlighted below;
- Disguising illegal items so that they will pass through customs checks as legal imports. This involves either changing the appearance of the items, or providing fraudulent documentation, or both
- Concealing the illegal items within legal shipments
- Evading customs controls by making wholly illegal shipments
The following examples illustrate the lengths to which smugglers will go in order to conceal shipments:
- Ivory has been dyed to appear like wood and concealed in timber shipments
- Rare bird chicks have been mixed with shipments of hen chicks from India
- Rhinoceros horn concealed inside statue’s made from plaster of Paris
Traditional Asian medicine manufacturers operating in the Far East gather shipments of endangered species or their parts and derivatives from all over the world, including tiger bones from India, bear gall bladders from Asia and North America, and musk deer glands and ginseng from China and Russia. The packaged medicines are distributed within Far East markets, and to Europe and North America through commercial shipments and small quantities carried by passengers.
United Arab Emirates;
Historically, the most significant transhipment centres for the illegal wildlife trade have been Hong Kong and Singapore. However, recent research points to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a centre of growing importance. The UAE as a nation state has joined CITES, but partly because each emirate in the federation maintains a separate enforcement policy, the record of the UAE overall has been very poor in terms of compliance with, and enforcement of, CITES. There is a bustling free trade zone in the Dubai emirate, and the Blue Souk in Sharjah is notorious as a market where endangered species are openly on sale.
Wildlife smuggling can also be a response to other desires and markets, as in the case of illegal hunting. In November 2001, following a lengthy undercover investigation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service prosecuted five people in Missouri for smuggling endangered leopards and tigers into the US so that they could be hunted and killed. Similar undercover operations in India have revealed that hunters will pay vast sums to hunt and kill endangered species such as tigers, Tibetan antelope, brown bears and clouded leopards.
We must all now start focusing on “outside border operations” instaed of documenting on these activities and wasting public funding and resources.
There is vast ammounts of information on the internet and on the ground of which we are fully aware of wit regards to illegal wildlife trade, we must not and cannot waste time in documenting anymore and now special wildlife law enforcement teams need to be established. Working to survey the problem areas then talking these with force.
Airports and shipping container yards MUST be priority in order to hit the demand even harder until Asia finally gets the message.
Should we fail and just ignore this message then we are failing our flora and fauna of which most will be banished into the realms of extinction through greed and get rich quick opportunities.
Please stay tuned for the final part of [Understanding Poaching]
Dr J C Dimetri Director V.M.D, B.E.S, Ma, PhD , MEnvSc
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