Illegal rhino horn trade has reached the highest levels since the early 1990s, and illegal trade in ivory increased by nearly 300 percent from 1998 to 2011, according to a new report that was prepared by the wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC. Seizure data indicate that “the fundamental trade dynamic now lies between Africa and Asia,” according to the report. In China and Thailand, elephant ivory is fashioned into jewelry and carved into other decorative items, while wealthy consumers in Vietnam use rhino horn as a drug which they mistakenly believe cure hangovers and detoxify the body. Rhinos and elephants are under serious poaching pressure throughout Africa, with even previously safe populations collapsing: Central Africa’s forest elephants have been reduced by an estimated 76 percent over the past 12 years while in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, elephant numbers have fallen from 70,000 in 2007 to only 13,000 by late 2013.
A record 1004 rhinos were poached in 2013 in South Africa alone—a stark contrast to the 13 animals poached there in 2007 before the latest crisis began. Record quantities of ivory were seized worldwide between 2011 and 2013, with an alarming increase in the frequency of large-scale ivory seizures (500 kg or more) since 2000. Preliminary data already show more large-scale ivory seizures in 2013 than in the previous 25 years. Although incomplete, 2013 raw data already represent the greatest quantity of ivory in these seizures in more than 25 years.
Both rhino horn and ivory trafficking are believed to function as Asian-run, African-based operations, with the syndicates increasingly relying on sophisticated technology to run their operations. In order to disrupt and apprehend the individuals behind them, the global response needs to be equally sophisticated.
African Indaba readers can access the full TRAFFIC report “Illegal Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn: an Assessment Report to Improve Law Enforcement Under the Wildlife TRAPS Project” by Tom Milliken ISBN 978-1-85850-373-8 here.
Source: 2014 TRAFFIC Report on Illegal Rhino Horn and Ivory Trade