Chinese elephant massacre in Africa (1)

From: Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Africa’s elephants are being massacred to extinction. The killing has accelerated markedly with China’s presence in Africa, with lots of evidence pointing to sharply increased Chinese smuggling to supply a vanity-luxury market at home(see below).

With today’s trends, at a rate now estimated at 100 per day, the African elephant will soon be extinct, and China and Chinese greed will be blamed for eternity, for a world without elephants (cf., even if of course there is an illicit trade to other countries too, like Viet Nam; even if we could also blame those corrupt Africans who help satisfy all this greed; even as we remember that earlier, in the 19th and 20th century, before conservation, Europeans and Americans depleted African wildlife on a grand scale; and even as there is also the loss of habitat to agriculture, and so on. But the current developments is beyond all that: this is the end time, with massive illegal killings in protected areas, above all to supply Chinese buyers.

Tanzania is among the worst hit: A survey of one key area there found the number of elephants decreased from 55,000 to 13,000 just in the last 6 years ( A new report “Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants” ( “details Chinese diplomats and military personnel colluding with Tanzanian officials and Chinese crime syndicates to send illegal ivory to China, decimating Tanzania’s elephant population in the process.”

The report says blood ivory has even been going back to China with the presidential planes of presidents Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao on state visits in 2013 and 2009 respectively. On this, see reporting at the BBC: “Tanzania ivory: China officials ‘went on buying spree'”,, and the NYT: “Chinese President’s Delegation Tied to Illegal Ivory Purchases During Africa Visit,”  <>, and the CNN:; there are already official Chinese denials and denouncements of the environmental groups as “unfriendly to China” (<>).

Of course, whether or not there was blood ivory on those planes, there is no denying this is now catastrophic. Chinese media too have reported on the huge trade. For example, the Chinese paper Nanfang zhoumo, once known for investigative reporting but now reportedly curbed, recently (in 2011) did a big story tracing the ivory smuggling into China: “象牙的终点:中国黑市助推国际象牙非法贸易 [The end destination of elephant ivory: The Chinese black market helps push the illegal global trade in ivory],”

And see: “Uncovering China’s illegal ivory trade.” BBC, 13 February 2014, (on how illegal ivory abounds in ‘legal’ outlets).

We do see honest, upright, daring Chinese activists engaged in trying to convince their fellow countrymen to stop what is happening — not least in the heartfelt large-scale media campaigning against the Chinese elephant-rhino-tiger trade by Chinese action movie star Jackie Chan and by basketball super-star Yao Ming, to name just two who have engaged themselves very deeply in this campaigning. There are more good people like that in China, inside and outside the Chinese government, who hope there will be more attention to these issues, as the message is barely audible (under the rage of the machine guns killing elephants, and the African guarding rangers, too, who are increasingly falling victim to the superior guns of the hired poachers).

Also see this new (2014) research on the Chinese trade:

Elephant ivory trade in China: Trends and drivers
by Yufang Gao and Susan G. Clark
Biological Conservation Volume 180, December 2014, Pages 23–30
DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.020


•    Ivory in China is traded in the “white”, “black”, and “gray” markets.
•    White legal factories and outlets increased from 40 in 2004 to 182 in 2013
•    Black online market price for small tusks is about US$ 2.15 per gram in 2014.
•    Gray ivory auction market (2002–2011) is highly correlated to elephant poaching.
•   The arts investment boom since 2008 is a key driver of ivory trade in China.


Poaching of African elephants is threatening the species viability. International non-governmental organizations and media often attribute the basic problem to China’s domestic ivory market. We present quantitative and qualitative information on trends and drivers of the ivory trade in China. Results show that ivory is traded in “white” legally licensed retail outlets, “black” illegal shops and online trade forums, and “gray” live auctions of uncertain legality. White markets are primarily in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The numbers of legal factories and retail outlets increased from 9 and 31 in 2004 to 37 and 145 in 2013. Black markets thrive in online trading platforms, such as Baidu Post Bar. Gray markets auction ivory items surging around 2006, mushrooming after 2009, peaking in 2011, and plummeting over 97% following government intervention. During 2002 to 2011, the ivory auction in China and elephant poaching in Africa are strongly positively correlated. Drivers of the ivory trade are multiple and complex, including Chinese consumers’ motivation stemming from the socially-constructed economic, social, cultural, aesthetic, religious, and medical values of ivory. We highlight China’s intangible cultural heritage preservation, the boom of arts investment, and the auction ban in changing ivory values and influencing markets. We argue that elephant conservation can be more effective if it is based on a more comprehensive and contextual understanding of China’s domestic ivory trade.

For full text see:

In the face of this catastrophe, I for one think more people should be asking why ivory trade is still permitted at all in China (at 150+ stores, according to the BBC) or anywhere today, after ivory trade was banned long ago, in the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) signed by China, Tanzania and many other countries (, and with today’s worsening crisis. Public shaming the destructive greed may be the only way,

Magnus Fiskesjö

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