China in the cross hairs again over blood ivory

The hunger and greed for ivory trinkets among China’s nouvelle riche continues unabated in spite of efforts by conservationists and prominent Chinese individuals campaigning against it.

The latest seizure yesterday by Hong Kong customs officials of 1,120 tusks, weighing nearly 2.3 tons, some 13 rhino horns, and several leopard skins, exposes the catastrophic failure of the Chinese leadership to recognize the growing global sentiment against their country, which combined with growing resentment about Chinese presence in Africa and their exploitative methods of mining has started to even outweigh and outnumber the voices speaking up against China’s continued occupation of Tibet, human rights violations, and generally not giving a damn about what the rest of the world, referred to by the Chinese as “gwai lo” (meaning white person) thinks about them.

“China has at a certain development stage played an important role to help Africa get empowered. However, what they are doing now is nothing short of neo-colonialism in the worst form. They are even bringing workers from China to do even manual labor, menial jobs even. They might finance a lot of projects, but the downside of those are now for all to see. Wherever they have the work camps, wildlife in the vicinity begins to disappear. Maybe they do not like posho and beans, but that does not give them the right to eat everything which moves on four feet.

“China is by far the largest consumer of blood ivory in the world, and their government has done nil to criminalize local demand, trade, and processing. The shipment today represents at least 560 dead elephant, perhaps more. I applaud their customs and port security, but how much slips through that net? I know some of my colleagues are trying to appease the Chinese and have started praising this and applauding that, but the fact is, they are playing the Chamberlain fiddle. What we need is hard resolve, to tell China to clamp down on demand, stop trade and processing, or risk becoming global pariahs. Combined with the issues of human rights and Tibet and their expansionism off shore to grab islands which are claimed by other nations, they will not know what hit them.

“They might think they sit pretty with our government officials, but once the Rubicon is crossed, there will be no holding back. They either start to behave civilized or have no one to blame but themselves. We also know that CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] is playing a very dubious role in all this, and they have turned out to be the biggest letdown. Instead of protecting the elephant, they play with their thumbs. There, too, a hard line is now needed to change personnel and direction if the African elephant is to survive,” let a regular conservation source in Nairobi fly, in fact fly off the handle with other comments which cannot be repeated here for their bluntness and acidity.

Ivory carvings bring Chinese owners prestige and affirm their social status, but this risks wiping out the African elephant within the next two decades, a fact which prompted another Kenya-based source to add: “They wipe out our wildlife just as they are trying to wipe out our mineral and forest resources. In response, they demonize critics instead of addressing the core issues, which are that China is the single largest consumer of blood ivory, and that has to end, and it has to end now. And it is high time our leading politicians wake up and act, because if they do not, they will be just as bad as those who buy blood ivory. In fact, everyone will start thinking they have been bought and turned into willing puppets.”

In closing it should be made clear that, of course, not all Chinese fit into this pair of shoes and that no doubt most of them are just ordinary hard-working folks trying to put food on the table for their families. But those who are fitting into that pair of shoes, those are the ones to take aim at and single them out as enemies of the African elephant, and, therefore, enemies of Africa no matter what social standing they have in China, what positions in the leadership their parents hold, or how much money they have made.

It is time for the Chinese leadership to act, not to mouth off, and show that they understand what global responsibility actually means in the context of saving the elephant, rhinos, and other game, giraffes included. This appears their latest crazy belief that the bone marrow of those graceful animals has some miracle cure properties, and plenty of giraffe carcasses have been spotted in recent months, all intact but for the legs which have been hacked off. The truth is that bone marrow does not have miracle cure properties, and neither does the powder made of rhino horn for which ailments the little blue pills might work a lot better, pun fully intended. Hands off the elephant, and hands off the African wildlife