Tuesday, 13 June 2017

UGANDA: Ivory Smuggling Allegation, Uganda Appologizes To China

Ugandan government has apologised to China after the China rejected allegations that two of its diplomats working in Uganda were involved in the trafficking of ivory.

Early this month, President Yoweri Museveni was reported in the media to have ordered a probe into possible collusion between the country's wildlife agency and the Chinese diplomats after about 1,300 kilogrammes of ivory disappeared from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stores.

The Chinese Embassy in Uganda dismissed the allegations as totally unfounded.

Now foreign affairs ministry says the ministry regrets the negative impact this incident may have caused to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China after two of the suspects were named as Chinese diplomats.

“Reference is made to recent local and international media reports quoting a leaked letter from H.E the President asking the Inspector General of Government to investigate the alleged “collaboration by some Uganda Wildlife Authority officials with some Chinese by the names of Li Wejin and Yinzhi who are diplomats in the Embassy to export ivory”, among other issues,” read a statement issued by the ministry’s permanent secretary Patrick S. Mugoya.

Mr Mugoya further noted that following a thorough review of its records, the ministry has confirmed that both Mr Li Wejin and Yinzhi are not accredited diplomats with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda.

China and Uganda continue to enjoy very cordial relations. The Government of Uganda reiterates its commitment to strengthening further the relations and bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries, he added.

China announced in December that it would ban all ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, a move hailed by conservationists as a "game changer" for African elephants.

More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989.

China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification.

On 31st March 2017 the State Forestry Administration, the Chinese agency that monitors the trade in elephant ivory, closed sixty-seven ivory factories and retail outlets across the country. This was the first phase of a larger plan—announced by the government of China, without fanfare, on December 30, 2016—to end the legal trade of elephant ivory within the nation altogether and thus to close the world’s largest elephant-ivory market.

China accounts for seventy per cent of the market for illegal ivory poached in Africa. Under the government’s plan, the remaining ivory factories and outlets will be closed by the end of 2017.

The effort to control the massacre of elephants has devolved into an escalating war between poachers who are increasingly well armed and often tied to criminal syndicates and conservationists, who, in defense of elephants, routinely deploy mercenaries, automatic weapons, advanced intelligence-gathering techniques, drones, and sniffer dogs.

For all these efforts, the over-all situation of elephants has steadily worsened. August 2016, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Foundation released the results of its Great Elephant Census, which found that the numbers of Africa’s savanna elephants had declined by almost a third between 2007 and 2014, and that only some three hundred and fifty thousand remain.

Forest elephants, Africa’s other elephant species, are in even worse shape, with perhaps only eighty thousand remaining. Many people began to talk about regional extinction.

While efforts to control poaching within Africa are fundamental to preserving the species, conservationists increasingly agree that the only real way to defeat the massacre of elephants is to control demand. This has proved difficult because China, the end market of most illegal ivory, has been, until recently, reluctant to restrain its domestic ivory market.

In 2007 China listed ivory carving as an intangible cultural heritage. Ivory ownership became an important status symbol for the new middle class. Journalist and activist Hongxiang Huang explained, If you owned an ivory piece, you’d really arrived.

In subsequent years, the price of ivory soared, reaching twenty-one hundred dollars per kilogram, in 2014. But as prices rose the market changed. In recent years, the ivory market in China has been driven not by the upwardly mobile middle class but by speculators betting on the extinction of elephants, which would drive prices still higher.

But, in those same years, China, too, has changed. Xi Jinping, confirmed as President in early 2013, speaks less about ivory as an intangible cultural heritage than about his ambition for China to become an ecological civilization. China’s ivory merchants and the poaching industry they supported were giving the country a bad name. Perhaps especially embarrassing was a report that, during Xi’s inaugural trip to Africa, in 2013, his political and business entourage took advantage of their diplomatic status to load his plane down with thousands of kilograms of illegal ivory.

In 2014 the government publicly destroyed six tons of confiscated ivory, and the next year the government announced that it would curtail the ivory trade, although it did not say when. All this may have been motivated, as Andrea Crosta, the executive director of the Elephant Action League said, less by a love of elephants than by the considerable embarrassment the ivory trade has caused China.

Within China, President Xi’s resolve has already made a difference. Between 2014 and February of this year, the price of ivory in China dropped more than sixty per cent from its 2014 high, down to seven hundred and thirty dollars per kilogram, according to a recent report by Save the Elephants.

After all the noise the government has made, I think they’ll be serious. The government is good at shutting down what it wants to shut down.”

Does the closing of the legal trade in China mean the end of the crisis for Africa’s elephants? Unfortunately, there’s little that’s predictable about the ivory market in China. Richard Leakey, the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service,who, in 1993, lost both legs in a suspected act of sabotage by poachers, referred to China’s plan as the “death knell for the ivory trade.”

But other conservationists are not convinced. Legal ivory in China is distributed through government-licensed retail outlets and factories the same ones that the government is now closing. But many of these outlets have, over the years, come to serve as fencing operations for greater quantities of illegal ivory.

As much as ninety per cent of the ivory sold in China each year is thought to be illegal, and much of that flows through the government’s legally sponsored outlets. Conservationists fear that closing the legal outlets could lead illegal sales to migrate elsewhere, including to the Internet, where they would be more difficult to track.

Banning the sale of legal ivory in China could merely lead to a situation in which the illegal ivory that consumers buy will increase from 90 to 100% of the market.

Save The Elephants, said that in Kenya prices of ivory had dropped off substantially but were still high enough to drive poaching. Ivory consumption might be moving out of China to neighboring countries, with Hong Kong in particular being a problem.

Hong Kong is now the world’s largest ivory market and ninety per cent of its customers are reportedly from mainland China. The Hong Kong government has announced that it, too, will shut down its ivory outlets—but not until 2021 and it is only beginning to negotiate details.

The main consuming country is supposed to stop buying ivory by the end of the year, while the main hub serving those consumers is allowed to keep operating for another four years.

But, even if the closing of China’s markets does diminish the pressure on elephants, there are other concerns within Africa. A persistent drought tied to global warming has spread south out of the Sahel, leading to the desertification of large areas of rangeland.

Kenya’s Laikipia Valley, where heavily armed pastoralists drove their herds onto conservation land, killing wildlife as they went. Witnesses reported dead elephants, buffaloes, zebras, and giraffes scattered across the landscape.

In February, the Vatican hosted a conference on biological extinction. Participants noted that one in five of the world’s species already faces extinction, and that proportion could rise to fifty per cent by the end of the century.

Africa’s population is likely to go from roughly one billion now to around four billion. Can you imagine what tensions are going to be there, especially with climate change coming and hitting the continent more than anywhere else?

China thank you for clearing your name in Uganda but stop buying Ivory totally, that is from anywhere in the world.
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