Thursday, July 6, 2017

China takes elephant steps to ban ivory trade



Smart grab
China says it is set to totally ban any trade in ivory before the close of year in a step that is expected to protect the elephant which is listed as vulnerable (facing high extinction in the wild).


By Edmund Smith-Asante, BEIJING
Officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the State Forestry Administration who spoke with the journalists.

China says it would place a total ban on ivory trade as one of several measures to stem illegal wildlife trade and protect endangered animal species before the close of year.

As a precursor to the ban on ivory trade, it has put in place a legal regime that prescribes stiffer punishment such as life imprisonment for people who are caught engaging in illegal wildlife trade.

These were revealed when officials of China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority and Wildlife Conservation Association met with some African journalists last Friday.

Mr. Wang Winsheng, Deputy Director General of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserves Management speaking at the meeting.
The Deputy Director General of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserves Management of the SFA, Mr. Wang Weisheng, said “according to laws and regulations of China, activities concerning sale, purchase, commercial use, transportation, personal carrying of protected wildlife or their products should be with permits issued by wildlife authorities.

“The laws and regulations of China prescribe severe penalties for those who offend the above legal requirements, from confiscating the wildlife or their products, fining up to 10 times of the actual value of concerned goods, to life imprisonment.”

He indicated that last year alone about 570 people were arrested and prosecuted for engaging in illegal wildlife trade.

Amendments, law enforcement
To further tighten the noose on illegal wildlife trade, Mr. Wang said some key amendments such as an additional legal explanation on criminal law; especially on illegal purchase of wildlife and their products was made on April 29, 2014.

Also, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued a judicial explanation on smuggling activities including wildlife cases on August 12, 2014.

He stated that “the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress adopted Amendment of the Law for Wildlife Conservation on July 2, 2016 in which a series of requirements including those on consumption of wildlife as foods, trade on internet and advertisement concerning wildlife etc, have been added.

Mr. Wang said to show the good faith of the Chinese government hotlines, and email account and weibo – a social platform had been created for information on illegal activities.

Inspections had also been intensified at borders, ports, air flights, ships, trains and other vehicles as well as patrolling of markets and shopping areas, monitoring the internet and tracing illegal activities and cases to punish criminals.

There is also a special policy on ivory trade and a labeling system to track illegal wildlife trade.

Positions
Mr. Wang said “it is China’s determination to resolutely combat illegal wildlife trade” and called for wider international collaboration to break the illegal wildlife trade chain which has already began with the signing of a bilateral agreement with Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania.

He asked for a clear distinction to be made between legal and illegal wildlife trade and attention drawn to the livelihoods of locals who depended on wildlife products for effective combating of illegal trade.

He blamed journalists for sometimes giving misleading information that enhanced illegal wildlife trade, by for instance highlighting the boom, high price of ivory and the perceived benefits but said China was opposed to that as well as the politicisation of the illegal wildlife trade.

CITES
Ms. Zhou Zhihua speaking to the African journalists.
For her part, the Deputy Director General of China’s CITES Management Authority, Ms. Zhou Zhihua, said China would ensure it implemented the resolutions and decisions of CITES Cop 17, fulfill its international mandate and responsibility and contribute to wildlife conservation as well as launch the global goal of sustainable development.

Expressing her support to the total ban on ivory trade, she said her establishment had already preceded the ban with the suspension of all imports of ivory carvings, hunting trophies and pre-Convention specimens of African elephants in 2015, while it had placed a trade ban on rhino horn and tiger bone since 1993.

The CITES Authority has also launched several events for the destruction of confiscated ivory and shown tolerance for illegal ivory, she said. There has been a global CITES ban on international sales of ivory since 1990.

Ms. Zhou told the Daily Graphic that in view of the restrictions on especially endangered flora and fauna, researchers and health professionals required certification or a trade mark on species to be used for research and medicinal purposes to show they were legally acquired.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, Ms. Guo Lixin, said a series of public education activities were held to let people appreciate and preserve nature, while an annual bird loving week attracted about four million bird watchers.

Writer’s email: edmund.asante@graphic.com.gh


Facts
·          According to worldelephantday.org, elephant numbers have dropped by 62 per cent over the last decade, and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade.

·        The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), says in the 1980s about 100 African elephants were killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only an estimated 415,000 in the forests.

·         The Asian elephant, whose habitat covers over 13 countries across Asia, is an endangered species with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide.

This story was written on May 7, 2017   

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