Panorama – Ivory Wars: Out of Africa (12 Apr 2012) [BBC]

‘The African elephant, the largest
animal on Earth, is under threat. ‘Some herds are being decimated
at an alarming rate.’ We’re truly worried
about the future of elephants. Some places have lost
almost all their elephants. ‘They are still being hunted
for their ivory despite a trade ban
in place for more than 20 years.’ Oh, yeah, here it is. Ask him about the elephant
that was killed. These people are armed,
very well armed – G3s, AK-47s. ‘Even the youngest are
in the firing line.’ Kasigau over there has got
a clear wound. ‘And seizures of illegal ivory
are at a new high.’ What is at the heart of the illegal
killing of elephants in Africa can be summarised
in one word – money. How much is this one? ‘We go under
cover to find the ivory dealers.’ 10,000 for one? ‘We see the new technology being
used to track down the criminals.’ These poachers are hammering the sam
area over and over and over again. ‘We go on the trail
of the poachers, smugglers
and organised crime syndicates ‘into a web that stretches
to south-east Asia and beyond… ‘to the biggest ivory buyer
of all.’ 90% of all the people
we have arrested at our airports
ferrying ivory… ..are Chinese. China is the future for elephants.
If China can curb its demand… ..elephants will survive in Africa. One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, all right? ‘But can this demand be stifled? ‘Or is it already too late?’ ‘Port Klang near Kuala Lumpur.
It’s the busiest port in Malaysia ‘and the last stop for vessels
heading to the Far East.’ SIREN WAILS ‘For three months, Customs have been
tracking a container from Africa. ‘Intelligence has alerted them
to contraband hidden
deep within packing crates. ‘Inside, a shocking discovery. ‘Nearly one and a half tonnes
of illegal ivory, ‘worth almost a million pounds,
the equivalent
of around 150 dead elephants. ‘And all this at a time
when an international ban
is supposed to stop the killing.’ We found that the container
was full of… Despite a 23-year international ban
on the trade in ivory, all indications are
that demand is booming, getting higher and higher each year. Last year saw the highest number
of large seizures of illegal ivory for over two decades. ‘Up until the middle of last year,
Malaysia hadn’t made a single large
ivory seizure in nearly a decade. ‘This is their fourth large bust
in just five months.’ All we’re doing here
is stopping the smuggler from getting his products.
It’s really good. We need more of this,
so we shut down the business. ‘Today, Malaysia is
the latest country to emerge
for ivory smuggling, ‘but it’s just one of the many
staging posts around the world ‘in a multi-million-pound
criminal trade.’ It takes a large amount of organised
activity to be able to move and manoeuvre all these activities
to the product ending up in Asia, so one can assume
it’s organised crime. ‘So to understand the links
in this chain, I’m going back
to where it all begins – Africa. ‘Man has always hunted elephants
here – for meat, sport
and for ivory. ‘Its tusks were traditionally used
in carvings, piano keys
and even false teeth. ‘Today, some conservationists fear
killings are so out of control ‘that elephants could soon disappear
for ever in parts of the continent. ‘Kenya – a popular
safari destination. ‘Tourism is essential
to the country’s economy, ‘but even here
in Samburu in the north, ‘a place where elephants
have recently thrived, ‘there are alarming new signs, ‘sickening images
tourists rarely see. ‘I’m following the trail
left by elephant poachers.’ We’re on our way with Stephen,
who is the conservation warden
for the West Gate Community here, because we’ve heard that there’s
an elephant which has been killed, the carcass of which is, I think,
not very far away. Oh, yeah, here it is. FLIES BUZZING This was killed right here? It has
been killed using bullets, a gun. Six rounds. Death always brings
this disgusting, high, sweet smell and it seems to sort of hit you
in the stomach and cling
to your skin and your hair, but more than the smell, actually,
it’s the shocking sight
of this adult female elephant with her face having been hacked off
because the poachers wanted
to take the tusks. ‘Older elephants, due to the size
of their tusks, are most vulnerable
to the poachers’ snares and guns.’ How old was this elephant? So a full, mature…? She was pregnant? Yes. ‘The warden thinks two poachers
were involved in the slaughter. ‘Just a few feet away
lie the remains
of the elephant’s dead baby.’ These are also the ribs. The ribs. Oh, these are the ribs
of the little elephant? Yeah. You can see now. Yeah. ‘The carcass was found
just outside the gates
of Samburu National Reserve. ‘It’s a base for Save The Elephants,
a charity founded
by Iain Douglas-Hamilton. ‘Iain witnessed the decimation
of Kenya’s herds in the 1970s
and ’80s when numbers plummeted. ‘They recovered after the ivory
trade ban was agreed in 1989. ‘But in the last three years,
Samburu has lost a quarter
of its elephants, ‘in large part due to poaching.’ At the moment,
we’re having a poaching spike. It’s worse
than it’s ever been before. This spike is very serious
because if it got out of hand, it would threaten
not only elephants, but also the communities around. ‘Poaching has an enormous impact
on the herd as a whole. ‘Elephants live
in a matriarchal family
where females lead the group.’ They really live
in a multi-tiered system of many, many relationships radiatin
out into the whole population. We’ve been able to show
through experiments that a given female knows
at least 100 other adult females
just by voice alone. The loss of any individual
in a family is really profound,
particularly adults. When one of them dies,
it is a major, major event and you can see
that they actually mourn the death. Any calf that she has that is
under the age of, say, two or three, is definitely going to die unless it’s rescued somehow. ‘It’s a constant battle
to try and stay one step ahead
of the criminals. ‘Gilbert Sabinga works
for Save The Elephants. ‘He is mapping where poachers
have been active as part
of a system called MIKE.’ So all these red dots here…? And there’s a lot down here
in this area. ‘Technology is a vital tool
in monitoring
and protecting the animals, ‘but it’s a huge challenge
in the 165-square-kilometre reserve. ‘Eight elephants are fitted
with a satellite collar. ‘It sends text messages to a radio
antenna and tracks their routes. ‘If the signal stops moving
for a matter of hours, it could be
a sign of a poacher in the area, ‘so the team spring into action.’ That’s a warning sign? ‘Today, Gilbert wants
to check up on two matriarchs ‘called Wendy… ‘and Mercury. ‘The team wants to make sure
their herds are safe
from poachers active in the area.’ So, Gilbert, you’ve just done
the whole thing with the antenna and
found not Wendy, but Mercury? Yeah. And they’re just the other side
of the river here?
Just this side of the river here. ‘First, we find a straggler
separated from the group.’ We know that they must be
around here somewhere because that
young male elephant we just saw, basically doubled back
in this direction to try
to find the rest of the herd. Actually, the signal is very strong
on that side. ‘Then suddenly, we spot the herd
in the distance. ‘The family is all accounted for and
safe from the poachers…for now.’ So there’s Mercury.
She’s the head of this family. You can see around her neck
the collar with the beacon on top
of it that’s sending this signal. That’s how we’ve been able
to trace her. It’s amazing seeing them with
their little baby elephants and how
protective they are towards them, making sure that they travel
in between two of the adults. ‘But some families are not as lucky
as Mercury’s. ‘Some of the poachers’ youngest
victims end up here – an elephant
orphanage just outside Nairobi. ‘This morning,
it’s feeding time for the babies. ‘Tourists pay to see them up close.
The money goes towards their upkeep, ‘along with funding
for anti-poaching teams.’ KEEPER CALLS OUT TO ELEPHANTS Come on. Come on. ‘Abdul is one of the orphanage’s
most experienced keepers. ‘He looks after the orphan Kihari
and, as her surrogate mother, ‘feeds, washes and even sleeps
beside her every night.’ These ones were about six months old
They have witnessed maybe their mother being killed
by poachers. When they come here, they are
so traumatised, they are so sad. Sometimes you’ll see baby elephants
staying away from the others, their
head bowed down, not happy at all. ‘Poaching numbers
have nearly doubled
in the past year alone in Kenya. ‘The youngest are abandoned
as their tusks don’t show
until around two or three years old. ‘They’re of no value
to the criminals.’ It’s only when you get quite close
to the elephants that you see some of the wounds
that were inflicted upon them. Kasigau over there has got a clear
wound just below his right eye and Rombo has got a hole in one
of his ears because of an arrow. ‘Abdul says
the orphans have nightmares,
reliving the poachers’ attacks, ‘and so need constant reassurance.’ SLURPING ‘But when the elephants
are reintroduced into the wild, they
may be at the mercy of the hunters. ‘I’m on my way to see what
the poachers are after – raw tusks. ‘They’re locked away in the offices
of the Kenyan Wildlife Service
on the edges of Samburu. ‘It’s a dangerous area.
Just days before we arrived, ‘people were shot
in cattle-rustling skirmishes.’ These captured tusks are
at the very heart of this story
of the trade in illegal ivory and they’re a really pitiful sight,
not just because you see
the smashed-up, blooded tusks, but they’re also a reminder
that no elephant is spared, from large bull elephants
whose tusks weigh nearly 30 kilos
to little baby elephants whose tusks weigh no more
than two kilos. So how do these poachers operate? It’s 5am. Andy Marshall, a former
SAS officer, is head of security in charge of a 50-strong army. A dead elephant has been discovered
on a private nature reserve
of 100,000 acres. The owner has been attacked
by poachers. Today, they are following a tip-off
from an informer. These people are armed,
very well armed. G3s, AK-47s,
because with the price of ivory, everyone is going
to chance their luck. Andy suspects criminals
have buried tusks from an elephant
they killed ten days earlier. This morning, they hoped to catch
one of the gang red-handed
and recover the ivory. But they’re too late.
The poachers fled the camp.
Only a young boy is left behind. The team hunts for clues
on the gang’s whereabouts. Ask him about the elephant
that was killed. CONVERSATIION IN LOCAL LANGUAGE What about his father? Does he know? And the three men
that came to get its tusks? But the little boy seems
too scared to help. This trail leads nowhere,
but poaching is drawing in
communities across Africa. You have local people going out
to make money to feed their families
and to survive, so they’re your on-the-ground
poachers that are recruited, then you have professional poachers that are moving
into different regions or provinces. All tend to link in
to the same distributors. Zambia – southern Africa. On the outskirts of the capital
Lusaka, they’re tracking down
the distributors and criminals. The authorities are stepping up
enforcement in key nations
all over Africa and Zambia is one of them. Interpol is launching
its biggest ever operation
against the illegal ivory trade, involving 14 countries
across the continent. David Higgins is Interpol’s man
on the ground, advising the
hard-pressed local law enforcement. We want to detect, apprehend and
suppress the criminal activities. We want to be able to demonstrate
that over the next nine days. This road is the main smuggling
route for ivory poached from the
nearby national park into Lusaka. Today, officers have set up
a road block. Good afternoon, sir. All right? Please park over here. The operation includes officers
from the Zambian Wildlife Authority,
local police and customs and has been in planning
for nearly a year. We got a lot
of intelligence information, linking us to a lot of people
in Lusaka, some of them that are keeping ivory
in their homes. After three days,
the first proper breakthrough. Officers prepare to arrest
a suspected smuggler they have
been tracking for two weeks. The officers are concerned
he may be armed. Hello?
KNOCKS ON DOOR Do you want me to break the door? Open the door! Please, sit down. Sit down. CONVERSATION IN LOCAL LANGUAGE The suspect is found
with two raw tusks stashed
under the bed, worth £2,000. If found guilty,
he could get anything
from five to 15 years in jail. The officers get a break
as they get more information
about the gang. They set up a rendezvous with
another of them, but they shoot the
suspect’s tyres as he tries to flee. Inside his van, ivory,
but more importantly, a wealth of intelligence
on the smuggling syndicate. This guy, actually, it has taken us
more than ten years to apprehend. For years, officers have only known
the suspect under an alias, but now they hope
to discover his true identity. They take him to his home
to search for details on his buyers
and the rest of the network. The phone might be of value to you.
Oh, yes. Oh, right, yeah, his order.
His order. Just give us any documentation. If you don’t have your passport,
just give us something. The individual offered them a bribe in the vicinity
of 20,000 US dollars. He would then no doubt get that
from somebody higher up. Otherwise, if he could get away,
they won’t get access to the entire
chain and that vital information. Eventually, they discover
a passport and he is revealed as a citizen from the neighbouring
Democratic Republic of Congo. Officers plan further arrests. The suspect will be charged
with smuggling and bribery. So far, the operation has led
to numerous arrests, as well as the seizure of ivory
and guns and more are expected. Official figures show increasing
levels of poaching last year,
the highest in a decade. The key is cracking
the syndicates who move the ivory
around the globe. Most of this plundered ivory
is heading out of Africa. At Nairobi’s international airport, Dick, the sniffer dog,
is on a training exercise,
searching for tusks. Kenya, with one
of Africa’s biggest airports,
is a smuggling hub. Nearly 85% of ivory seized from
around the world either comes from
or passes through East Africa. And Kenya’s Wildlife Service
has identified a startling link
among the traffickers. 90% of all the people
we have arrested at our airports… ..ferrying ivory are Chinese. And the destinations
of all contraband ivory, it’s always neighbouring countries
around China. Since 2007, the amount of seized
ivory has gone up by 800% in Kenya. This Chinese woman
and two companions were arrested
at the airport with a suitcase stuffed with goods. Years after Europe’s colonialism
ended, Africa is witnessing a new scramble
for its natural resources, including ivory. And there’s a new big player
in town – modern China. The place is awash with its money. China’s dynamic economy
is changing Africa’s landscape
and its cities for ever. And its footprint can be seen
from one end of the continent to the other. China has emerged as the leading
driver of the illegal trade in ivory For the first time in the history
of continental Africa, you have large numbers
of Chinese living in Africa, collecting the ivory
and shipping it out. And this is
an incredibly potent force when coupled with the fact that they
probably have more finance available than almost any other investor
in Africa today. So which countries in Africa
is all this ivory coming from? Cutting-edge DNA technology is being
used to help solve that question. These samples of ivory seized
in Kenya are being tested. The process will help
local law enforcement to pinpoint
where the elephants were killed. Kenya has become a very important
transit point for this ivory. It’s very important
to know where it came from. First, the team grinds the ivory
to a powder to extract its DNA. This DNA is then matched
to Dr Wasser’s previous DNA map
of Africa which is compiled from elephant dung samples. When they are matched up,
the two sets of DNA reveal where the
elephant has come from originally. We’ve found consistently
that these large seizures have not
come from multiple locations. They have come from a core location,
so these poachers are hammering
the same area over and over again. And elephants have been hit hardest
in one part of Africa in particular. Elephants are believed to exist
in 37 sub-Saharan countries with numbers estimated
at between 500,000 and 700,000. In Southern and East Africa,
estimates, now five years old, suggest numbers
were actually growing by 4% a year. But in Central Africa
where poaching is rife, it’s feared numbers are plummeting. There could be as few
as 60,000 elephants left alive. Elephants are threatened
by many factors from the loss
of their natural habitat to the ever-growing
human population. And monitoring also shows that
elephant killings are on the rise, according to the man
who oversees all the data. Since about 2006 or so
there’s been a sustained increase in illegal killing overall.
That doesn’t mean the same pattern is happening in every part of
the continent, but overall in Africa
there’s been a sustained increase. Poaching thrives where governments
and security is weakest. One place more than any other
in Africa is synonymous with chaos and the destruction
of its elephant population. The Congo. One of
the largest rivers in the world. The country it flows through
was once a byword for the most
brutal excesses of colonialism and ivory was
at the heart of it all. Today it’s a failed state,
blighted by a bitter civil war
which has claimed millions of lives. And the ivory trade continues. The Democratic Republic of Congo
is one of Africa’s largest countries and it sits at the very heart
of the continent, but numerous
reports say the elephant population is being hammered by poaching. The DRC is also
consistently identified
as one of the top countries linked with the illegal trade
in ivory. ‘Much of this ivory is from
the forests of central Africa, sold
openly in large unregulated markets ‘like this one in the capital,
Kinshasa. ‘These black markets provide
an outlet for poachers, carvers
and smugglers.’ And this…
I think this is a paperweight. And this is a little elephant
that’s been carved out. With a lion. ‘Behind
the coverings, large carvings,
but the sellers are camera-shy.’ What’s in here? Can we see it?
..No, they’re not letting us. ‘All this is going on in plain sight
of the market supervisor.’ The reason why they’re actually
covering up some of the stalls is because it actually houses
the ivory we want to see and when we tried to actually ask
them to have a look underneath,
they refused. But it’s everywhere. ‘We’ve been in the market
in Kinshasa, for example,’ and estimated the ivory from
more than 200 elephants has been on
the tables for sale on a single day. These markets are patronised
by ex-pat communities,
Chinese business… Chinese nationals
are some of the biggest buyers,
so we send in our Chinese colleague, this time armed with hidden cameras,
to see if the sellers
would be less reticent. ‘They approached me straight away ‘and one actually say, “Xiangya.”
That means ivory in Chinese. ‘They were targeting me.’ ‘I felt a little bit nervous,
so before I left
we exchanged telephone numbers. ‘I said I would contact him later.’ A couple of things. I have spoken to
my people from…from my place. I’m also interested in a very big
tusk. That would be nice. And the raw ivory
so I can take it back with me. That same afternoon,
our colleague returns
for a second meeting in our van, under the nose of local police.
We have no intention
of seeing the deal through, but we want to see what’s for sale. One, two, three, four, five,
six, seven…eight, nine, ten. All right. You’ve got ten here,
but it’s all very, very small. ‘The guy came back
with a very, very big tusk. ‘I have never seen a tusk so big
in my whole life. ‘The tusk is the same width
as the van.’ Our investigator, anxious not to
fuel the trade, declines the deal
and cuts off all contact. Within 24 hours
of being here in Kinshasa,
I’ve been offered ivory for sale and I’ve seen it being openly traded
throughout the market stalls here. And what’s more,
my Chinese colleague was offered
very large pieces of ivory, in fact,
whole tusks for sale and export. I never imagined it would be so easy
to buy ivory here in Kinshasa. There’s the, um, tusks.
Ivory tusks. ‘We wanted to see if what we’d found
confirmed other reports
about China’s role in this trade. ‘We took our footage to a campaigner
with expertise in the field.’ Being Chinese, I feel really ashamed
of this image the Chinese present in Africa. You know, you come to a market
and they approach you
with, “Xiangya, Xiangya!” Obviously, they recognise
Chinese are the buyers. And at the heart of this trade
is an elephant found primarily
in the forests of central Africa. Smaller than their savanna elephant
cousins, their ivory
is straighter and pinker. Hidden away, they are difficult
to track, making it hard
to attract tourists and money. This leaves them especially
vulnerable to poachers. And according to some scientists,
it’s a whole new species
that’s under threat. African elephants
represent two species. Forest elephants
and savanna elephants. The forest elephant has
an extra toe. Genetically, they are
as different as the lion and tiger. The Congo Basin is thought to have
once had over 100,000 elephants, but in the DRC today
there could be fewer than 20,000. A possible new species
under threat of extinction. Forest elephants are so important
to this ecosystem. They are being
annihilated and we can’t stop it. The illegal trade in ivory seems to
be booming in spite of a global ban. So what’s going wrong? The 1989 ban rules out international
trade, but domestically countries
regulate their own markets where some ivory can be sold. But four years ago,
CITES, the body which overseas
the wildlife trade, lifted the ban to allow four southern African
countries to sell stockpiled ivory
to China and Japan. Some say it was a move
which changed everything. When that trade ban was put
into place, ivory prices dropped. And that, effectively,
controlled poaching. However, as soon as
that one-off sale is allowed, ivory prices start going up,
people start wanting the ivory and poachers start
killing the elephants. CITES has found no direct link
between the legal sales
and increased killings or trade. But the arguments are likely to be
reignited later this year when more African countries are
expected to put in requests
to sell stockpiled ivory. Supporters say countries that
properly protect elephants should be
allowed to profit from them. It’s so vital that local people and the countries where elephants
are present in large numbers get economic benefit
from the use of ivory. Local livelihoods are already tight
in Africa and the more that wildlife can help to contribute and pay its
way, the more interest there will be
in conserving it. But those opposed
to allowing further sales
say it will only fuel demand and could threaten
all of Africa’s elephants. It’s true that the elephant
populations in southern Africa have been doing particularly well
over the last 20 years. What is going to happen
when the elephants of the Congo
are finally wiped out when the elephant populations
of east Africa are under siege? I think the demand to be satisfied,
if it remains at the present level, will inevitably have to move south to exploit those secure populations
and they will see what’s coming. ‘If Africa’s elephants
are under so much pressure, is there
any way to curb the flow of ivory? ‘I’m following one of the routes of
smuggled ivory here to Malaysia,
south-east Asia. ‘Its ports are one of the main
gateways for smuggling contraband –
cigarettes, alcohol, drugs ‘and, of course, ivory.’ And in one six-month period alone,
five seizures were made,
amounting to six tons, the largest ever such haul in
Malaysia. To put that into context, those six tons of ivory
would have come from
approximately 700 elephants. Nine million containers pass
through this port every year. Royal Malaysian Customs are in
charge of searching out contraband
smuggled by the crime syndicates. ‘I’m out on patrol with three teams,
just outside Kuala Lumpur. ‘Today they are doing a routine
stop and search. ‘Barter boats like these are just
one of the many vessels used
to smuggle ivory into the country.’ The boat’s from Indonesia, going to
Malaysia. Most carry vegetables and also…fish, crabs,
some seafood. ‘They check the ship’s manifest
and inspect the cargo. ‘Everything’s in order
and the captain’s allowed
to carry on to port. ‘It’s an almost impossible task
to keep track of all the ivory
heading to China.’ You’ve seen these gangs
increasingly trying to use Malaysia
as a transit point for this illegal ivory. When you actually look
at the containers themselves, it strikes you that without any
intelligence as to where to look, it must be impossible
to find the illegal ivory
that comes in these containers. ‘Last year they got a break
when a port worker tipped them off
about a shipment from east Africa. ‘They took me to their
heavily-guarded strongroom,
which has never been filmed before, ‘to view the captured tusks.’ We’re going to be shown the ivory
from two large seizures from August and September
of 2011. In this one room,
there’s over 1,400 pieces of ivory. The combined weight
is over 4,000 kilograms and they have an estimated black
market value of £1.2 million. ‘Wildlife crime is thought
to be second only to drugs
in terms of profit. ‘It’s suspected these two containers
of ivory, marked as recycled
plastic, were from the same gang. ‘There are few leads
and no arrests so far. ‘The hauls are just a fraction
of the smuggled ivory sent to try to
satisfy demand in the Far East.’ China is definitely
the largest end destination for ivory products, trinkets. For some reason
it sells very well in China. So with the overwhelming demand
coming from just one place, that’s
where my journey leads to next. I’m here now in Hong Kong,
but over there is
the Chinese mainland. China is the biggest importer
by weight of illegal ivory
in the world. ‘I wanted to investigate China’s
voracious appetite for ivory, ‘its fascination with shaping,
carving and trading it. ‘Lee-Cheong Leung has been working
and sculpting ivory
for more than half a century. ‘He is one of the last master
carvers working in Hong Kong today.’ What is it about ivory
that the Chinese like so much? TRANSLATED:
I think this is linked to the
traditional culture of the Chinese. When you look back at the history of
China, spanning 3,000-4,000 years, when we dig
and find things from our past,
they’re often made of ivory. Mr Leung says he carves from
legal stocks acquired before the
international ban of 20 years ago. He also uses legal ivory
from the extinct woolly mammoth. Mammoth ivory, dug up
from the frozen wastes of Siberia, is softer, darker and not
as highly prized as elephant ivory. When you’re working with this ivory,
knowing where it’s come from, that animals have died
in order to provide this tusk, do you feel a sense
of personal conflict? TRANSLATION:
First of all, I should explain that when I carve ivory,
I use very little raw material. The natural life cycle of elephants
through illness and death means there’s enough ivory
for me to carve anyway.
And each carving takes years. ‘One of Mr Leung’s regular customers
is Elsa Lao, owner of the restaurant
based next door to his stall. ‘I wanted to view her valuable
collection of ivory pieces ‘to see
why it’s so prized in China.’ Tell me what’s inside this box.
OK. You can see inside. Wow. How much would, for example,
this spoon cost? How much? About… 5,000. 5,000 Hong Kong dollars.
Yes, Hong Kong dollars. Which is about £500.
Mm-hm. Yes. That’s expensive. ‘Miss Lao says her love of ivory is
part of the family tradition.’ Do you think you’ll keep buying
more ivory in the future?
I hope so. I think I will. And she’s just one of many
with money to spend
here in booming Hong Kong. And the money here is just
a fraction of the wealth
over on the mainland. That’s why the rules on buying ivory
are so crucial. The 2008 one-off sale
of African ivory to China depended on the country
demonstrating proper regulation
of its domestic market. Every ivory shop must be registered and every item on display has
its own unique identification card, so that every piece of ivory
can be tracked after sale. We wanted to go from here
in Hong Kong to mainland China and see if the regulations are
working. We didn’t get permission, but, undeterred, we sent in
an undercover team instead, including the colleague who had
secretly filmed for us in Congo. We headed to Guangzhou
in southern China. It’s been at the heart
of the ivory trade for centuries. And China’s economy
is expanding rapidly. There is more disposable income
in China than in history. Ivory has the cachet of being
a luxury status commodity and more people than ever before are
able to own a piece of ivory now. The demographics of China absolutely swamp anything. So how is China policing
its trade in ivory? Our first stop for the undercover
team was the state-owned
Friendship store, situated alongside
the likes of Gucci, Dior and Prada. Here carvings sell
for hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s a shop licensed
by the authorities to sell ivory. We wanted to see if all the elephant
ivory items for sale came with
the necessary certificates. Not true. Every elephant ivory item
on sale should have a certificate. There is no evidence the store is
selling illegal ivory, but we saw
many items without certificates and it’s not clear
if the shop had them. There was also some confusion
from the saleswoman about how the
ivory is obtained from the animals. ‘A survey of Chinese people showed
many were also unsure
of where the ivory comes from.’ 7 out of 10 people
do not even know the ivory they buy from the shops
comes from elephants killed because in Chinese
elephant ivory literally translates
as “elephant teeth”. So people think if it’s teeth,
it’s very easy. You know, it can fall off,
it will grow back in. Finally, to test whether there
really was any paperwork, we bought
a necklace clasp worth £15. We left the shop
with the elephant ivory,
but no one gave us the ID card. What we found is
that 75% of the Chinese consumers, if they have a chance to buy ivory
with a cheaper price
without the ID card, they would prefer
not to have the ID card. Failure to give a certificate
with each sale of legal ivory undermines China’s commitment
to regulate its market. It’s impossible to be sure
what’s legal and what isn’t. Responding to our secret filming,
the Friendship store in Guangzhou
said all of its ivory products complied with regulations and that
sales records from the day we filmed showed they had
all the necessary paperwork. ‘But it’s not only us
who have tracked this problem. ‘Numerous reports have suggested
China’s domestic market
is riddled with holes.’ What we found is in Guangzhou
and a small town called Fuzhou,
also in southern China, is that 63% of the items did not
have the proper identification. The regulations also say
you need to have it close by
to the individual piece. That wasn’t always the case. So if the supposedly regulated
system is in disarray, how easy
is it to access the black market? Another stop for our undercover team
was a market in Guangzhou. Reports suggest Guangzhou
is a hot spot for the trade and this appears
to have made dealers wary. At first,
there is no sign of ivory at all, but then a seller shows us photos
of various ornamental carvings. Finally,
she begins unpacking small samples
from various boxes around the shop, which includes a lady’s bracelet. The equivalent of £200. And after chatting for a while,
she agrees to email us
more images of her stock. We have found
that every one legal activity comes with nearly six
illegal ivory trading activity. So this domestic market
provides opportunity for people to launder
illegally-obtained ivory. The dealer comes back as promised
and we arrange to meet to see
the samples first-hand, again with no intention of buying. Is she really going to deliver
so quickly? She brings out
two ornamental pen holders. But the biggest item in her stock
is an uncarved tusk, the most expensive piece
at £4,000. Eventually,
she offers 15 items of ivory worth nearly £50,000. All this delivered
within just 24 hours of asking. We cut off all contact. And Guangzhou wasn’t the only place
we were offered large pieces
of illegal ivory for sale. In Fuzhou,
we were also offered two pieces. Again, it was delivered
within hours of our arrival. Now the man who collects the data
on the illegal ivory trade concedes the sale to China
may have made things worse. Did the allowance
of legal ivory to go into China
exacerbate a situation? One could probably argue now,
with hindsight, that indeed it did. It created perhaps an image
in the mind of many potential
Chinese consumers that it was OK to buy ivory. The Chinese government did not
accept our request for an interview, but in a statement it said it had… It said a range of measures
including tougher law enforcement
and improved public education put… And any possible breaches shouldn’t be used to deny… But from top to bottom,
our undercover team found evidence that the rules on ivory sales
were being flouted. Even in a state-run shop, ivory was
sold without the proper paperwork. It confirmed what many feared – that
the legal trade provides a channel for illegal ivory
to get onto the market. Some campaigners still see
re-education as the key. At the moment in China,
there’s a lack of awareness of the consequences of buying, but if the buying stops,
the killing can, too. Time is running out, though. Last summer, the Kenyan government
made a dramatic gesture to try
to get the world to take notice of the plight of Africa’s elephants. We must send a message out there
to all illegal groups that trading wildlife… That wildlife has no value
other than the way God had
created them to be. 335 tusks and over 40,000 ivory pieces,
worth millions of pounds,
went up in smoke. It will be tragic for this world
to lose the biggest animal on Earth
to poachers, for no reason
other than their ivory. At the present rate, I don’t see it
letting up and some countries
will lose all their elephants. And that’s just tragic. On my journey, I’ve seen that
despite an international ban meant
to protect an endangered species, elephants are facing a grave crisis. The question now:
if more countries are allowed
to sell their ivory, too, will it simply declare open season
on all of Africa’s elephants? Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

About the author


  1. This is wrong ether is ligal or ilegil becouse it comes from livig animal that has the same sual you have and may allah punish those who kill that inasent animal for just his teeth (Amin amin amin )

  2. We need a Ban on Ivory Trade and on Chinese Travel and Business Visas as a whole. Starve them Economically and end their disease on the planet.  Sorry  eating shit, rats, dogs, babies, animals %ssholes, penises, tusks, fu$#ing does not give you super strength of any kind !   – Dumb People….

  3. I am chinese. and i fucking HATE ivory. i am ashame of my own race who purchase ivory, eat shark fin, tiget bones and other stupids stuffs!

  4. China will kill this earth. With animal species they have a thing called culling when a certain species will destroy its own habitat of use all of its resorces up. The UN really needs to think about this. Or the USA needs to step in and save planet earth.

  5. China is to blame for elephant extinction and a thousand other malpractices. These natives are unfit to share the planet with modern man.

  6. China and other Asian countries are directly responsible for the imminent extinction of the irreplaceable, unique and wonderful elephant, rhino and their own tiger. The extraordinary Asian selfishness, irresponsiblity, psychopathic callousness and indifference to the suffering and the future life of animals fuels the ivory trade. Immediate self-indulgence is the only thing that matters to the new, fast-growing Chinese middle class, and it is the by far biggest threat to the last giants – the elephants.

  7. China is trying so hard to be the best in the world, They seem to forget what goes around comes around. say what you want. But, God is watching you. and what the people of this world is doing not only to the wildlife. but to the children of this world. it's all going to come back on you.

  8. this chinese bullshit lie every one chinese people doing everything no one speak nothing goberment is corruct chinese this chine son nation has to stop chinese

    Go help me go out to Africa and be apart of saving elephants please!!

  10. This is fake .chinese GDP for capita is so low .most of the ivories are bought by Americans. Fuck HKers ,the traitors of Han Chinese.

  11. If it were up to me, I think that we ought to start having giant panda bear soup on the market, might put a stop to some of that shit. They give us a couple of near extinct panda bear for our zoo's here in the U.S. on a temporary loan, but then turn around and exploit the rest of the worlds endangered animals, bringing them to damned near extinction. I know two wrongs don't make a right . but sometimes you have to take one for the team. if nothing else it would damned sure make them sit back and think about it for a bit. To let them wear the shoe on the other foot for awhile and see how it feels.

  12. Or we remove elephants tusk (teeth) before it grows up or else they will be no elephants in the coming years…At least they will be safe

  13. Come to think of it, the elephant is a mammal with 5 limbs, if you don't count the tail, and monkey is five limbs too. Wonder how it feels like to use a nose as a octopus tentacle on land…. one without suction cup. Also, I wonder if it's possible to train a female elephant for nose job. Those will be well taken care of. Train a nose, save an elephant. Breed as pet, save a species. XDDDDD

  14. Lol 10k for one tusk? Bruh that's a rip off haha those guys only pay like $100 for a tusk and at the most make $1,000 for it selling to the chinese who are desperste for their fake medicine lol what a greedy little knuckles (if you get this then like) haha

  15. I love elephants.. I believe if more elephants education were presented to China.. whole China population will know elephants were Killed for their ivory, like the Chinese lady reporter said .. 7 out of 10 thinks it’s a simple teeth pulled from an elephant.
    It is the poacher fault as much. They need customer didn’t revealed how they got the ivory from elephants..

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