China has long been accused of fueling the illegal ivory trade in Africa. A new report out this week from London-based NGO Environmental Investigation Agency says the illicit trade implicates even the highest levels of the Chinese government. The organization’s report focuses on Tanzania, the epicenter of the illicit ivory trade, where the elephant population has been decimated with some 10,000 elephants killed for their tusks last year alone.
In March 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a visit to the country on state business. The presidential visit, as the New York Times reports, kicked off a shopping spree for illegal ivory by the Chinese delegation that caused the price of the smuggled goods to double. Here’s more on what happened from the Times:
[President Xi Jinping] was joined by a large entourage of Chinese government officials and business leaders, officially there to promote a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries. But according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nongovernmental organization based in London, members of the delegation used Mr. Xi’s visit as an opportunity to procure so much illegal ivory that local prices doubled to $70,000 per kilogram, or about $31,800 per pound. In fact, two weeks before Mr. Xi arrived, Chinese buyers went on a shopping spree for illegal ivory, purchasing thousands of pounds of poached tusks, which were “later sent to China in diplomatic bags on the presidential plane,” says the report, “Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants,” which was released on Thursday…
At a time when the Chinese government is trying to prove itself a responsible state actor that is serious about rooting out corruption and abiding by international law, the organization’s report describes a devastating environmental cost of China’s geopolitical rise: Chinese diplomats and military personnel, it says, are colluding with corrupt Tanzanian officials and Chinese-led crime syndicates that send huge amounts of illegal ivory to China, reducing Tanzania’s elephant population by half.