Without a doubt, Africa is one of the richest continents on the planet. There are plants and animal species that can’t be see anywhere else. Have you seen an African savannah? Seeing wild animals roaming freely in their natural habitat can leave anyone in awe. That’s how nature designed these animals to live – not in cages or zoos for the pleasure of mankind. Africa is the perfect home for them with its rich biodiversity that supports the life of many of these wild animals.
But again, man and progress got into the equation. Greed can make people do lots of stupid and reckless things – among these are poaching. In itself, poaching is already damaging because you destroy the natural balance in the wild. Most ecosystems live with their own sense of check-and-balance where the disappearance of a certain predator or prey can mess up this balance and ultimately change the landscape. Elephants, despite their mammoth size, aren’t safe from poachers and the reason is pretty obvious.
Seven smugglers involved in the illegal ivory trade from Uganda to Singapore have been arrested following an 18-month investigation by African and Asian law enforcement officials, a counter-trafficking organization said.
The operation netted a top Kenyan customs officer and shipping agents who facilitated the covert ivory pipeline, highlighting progress in Africa on cross-border collaboration by law enforcement agencies, according to Freeland, the anti-trafficking organization that supported the operation.
Tens of thousands of African elephants are killed for their tusks every year, leading to a drop of 20 to 30 percent in their numbers on the continent over the last decade.
However, environmentalists say law enforcement agencies are increasingly disrupting smuggling networks.
“These arrests reveal how the smuggling has been orchestrated,” Freeland chairman Kraisak Choonhavan, a prominent Thai politician, said in a statement released over the weekend.
These poachers often aren’t operating by themselves. They are usually a big syndicate that spans continents. These huge animals are helpless in protecting themselves against these greedy poachers who are after their ivory tusks – their prized possession. Fortunately, law enforcement officers aren’t slacking and many arrests have been made quite recently although there are still a lot left to be done.
Months on, the debate on domestic trade in ivory remains a live issue in certain countries, while in some others, ivory carvings are still openly on sale. Where domestic bans are proposed, such as in Hong Kong, the timing of the ban remains an issue. In other places, like the EU, strict controls on trade rather than a ban are being pursued. In all cases, the kinds of exemption to be allowed is part of the debate, with all countries allowing some form of exemption for antiques.
In March, during my seventh visit to China as secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, I saw first-hand the closing of the initial tranche of ivory-carving factories and markets. Two years earlier, I had met Vice-Premier Wang Yang ( 汪洋 ) to discuss CITES and the ivory trade issue, after opening the first workshop on reducing demand for illegal ivory, organised by the CITES Secretariat together with the Chinese government.
The bold decision made by China since will have a major impact on the ivory-carving industry and markets. It affects the processing, trade and movement of ivory and ivory carvings both within and between provinces, giving it extraordinary reach nationwide.
We may all think that the issue of ivory smuggling is only a big problem in Africa but China also faces its fair share of ivory issues. Ivory is used extensively in many Chinese ivory-carving markets that often work illegally and under the radar. If nobody is patronizing this market, then poachers won’t have anyone to sell to these ivory tusks and they will eventually stop hunting down elephants in the wild. We should take poaching issues seriously whether it is elephant’s tusks or pangolin scales because once these species go extinct, we can’t bring them back to life anymore.
Let us not be selfish and think about the future generation too. May they have a planet that is still thriving and living like what older generations used to enjoy. Our actions and mistakes largely shape the future of the world, so act responsibly and think about the bigger picture all the time before doing anything rash.