Booming economic relations between China and Africa have been identified as the biggest catalyst to poaching and killing of wildlife species for the illegal ivory trade in Asia. The World Wildlife Fund raised alarm at a just ended meeting organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Gaborone, that the ongoing move by the People’s Republic of China to secure much needed natural resources through Chinese-African trade and diplomatic relations is a threat to wildlife species such as elephants.
As the relations blossomed, a number of Chinese nationals came to work for Chinese companies in Botswana, but later got involved in illegal trafficking of wildlife species. World Wildlife Fund Central Africa Regional Program Officer, Alain Bernard, said economic relations between China and Africa are a burden to wildlife species that are usually targeted by Chinese nationals and killed for the ivory trade. Bernard said blossoming economic relations between China and Africa have resulted in Chinese nationals coming to Africa in large numbers.
Presenting at an on-going workshop organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Bernard said the Central African region has not been spared by the arrival of Chinese nationals.
“We are aware that most of the Chinese nationals who are working in Chinese companies are involved in poaching wildlife species for ivory,” he said.
Bernard said investigations have revealed that illegal ivory trade is perpetrated by expatriates, mostly from Asian countries like China and Thailand, who are working for multinational companies in mining and infrastructure development. The hardest hit countries are in the Central Africa region comprised of Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, where Asian multi nationals are acting as middle men in illegal ivory trade. He also expressed concern about poaching of wildlife and illegal trafficking of ivory in the region, which he said threaten wildlife species such as elephants.
“In 2006 alone 603 elephant tusks worth millions were seized in Hong Kong, in a shipping container that was supposed to be carrying timber from Cameroon,” said Bernard.
The workshop, titled “Taking the proceeds from wildlife and timber trafficking ÔÇô Asian and African experiences,” had brought together representatives of African and Asian states to share experiences on how to combat the upsurge in wildlife trafficking. Botswana is one of the countries that have not been spared by the arrival of Chinese nationals involved in illegal poaching of wildlife species for the ivory trade. Chinese nationals have been arraigned before Botswana courts for illegal possession and smuggling of ivory. National Coordination of the Anti Poaching Unit, Brigadier Terry Macheng, earlier told Sunday Standard in an interview that Chinese nationals have created a market for ivory in Botswana. He said creating a market for the sale of ivory in the black market has resulted in increasing incidents of poaching, where big game wildlife such as elephants and rhino are killed with impunity in Chobe and Okavango. Macheng also revealed that mostly Chinese nationals were involved in buying and transporting of the ivory. He further indicated that most of the construction sites set up by Chinese companies are regularly used as collection points for ivory.
For his part, Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, warned African member states to address corruption at high levels to curb the upsurge in poaching and trafficking of wildlife and forestry. When officially opening the international workshop, Khama said corruption among high officials could deter the fight against killing of wild animals. He said there is need for political will among the leadership of each member state to address the unprecedented increase in poaching and trafficking of wildlife and forestry products. Khama also advised those attending the workshop to implement resolutions when they get back to their respective countries so they can effectively combat illegal trafficking of wildlife and forestry products.
“It will not be good enough for us to discuss the issues but fail to implement resolutions that will help save wildlife species in Africa,” he said.