Over the past two weeks, authorities in multiple countries have arrested smugglers and seized major shipments of illegal wildlife products in Africa and Asia, including rhino horn, elephant ivory and pangolin scales.
The largest such seizure occurred earlier this week in Singapore, where an estimated $6 million in ivory tusks, rhino horn and teeth believed to be from cheetahs and leopards were found stashed in a shipping container filled with bags of tea leaves.
In each of these six separate cases, the shipments were en route to Vietnam and/or China, or involved smuggling by nationals of those countries.
On Thursday, May 28, "Illicit Ivory," a documentary by acclaimed environmental investigative series EARTH FOCUS, premieres on Link TV. If you're in Southern California, the show premieres Wednesday, May 27 on KCET.
A captivating examination of the ivory trade's ties to organized crime and insurgent groups, Illicit Ivory features interviews with global experts on the trade, including WildAid CEO Peter Knights.
Both Link and KCET will stream the show online following the broadcast premiere.
WildAid is proud to support Initiative 1401, a campaign in Washington state to strengthen penalties on the criminal enterprises that buy and sell products made from endangered species.
While most of WildAid’s media messages to combat the illegal wildlife trade are broadcast overseas, the United States remains one of the world’s largest markets for ivory and other products.
Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, have enacted laws to crack down on intrastate trade. Other state legislation currently is pending, including California’s AB 96 (also endorsed by WildAid), which would close longstanding loopholes that have allowed illegal ivory sales to flourish.
On Sunday, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs announced that rhino poaching in this country is set to reach a new, macabre record: 393 rhinos have been illegally killed so far in 2015, compared with 331 at the same time last year.
The increase in Kruger National Park, which has the world’s largest rhino population and the worst poaching problem, is alarming — 290 rhinos poached this year versus 212 at the same time in 2014.
Today, two days after the Minister’s announcement, I drove out with South African National Parks investigators, police and a small media contingent to a remote part of the Crocodile Bridge section in the southern part of Kruger, the crown jewel of South African national parks. WildAid is facilitating the visit of a Taiwanese film crew to South Africa, which is producing a Mandarin-language documentary on the poaching crisis.
Over the past three decades, China’s seafood consumption has more than tripled, surpassing both Japan and the United States as the world’s largest consumer, producer and importer/exporter of fish and shellfish. High demand among a growing middle class also has fueled illegal fishing and smuggling of many protected marine species.
Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China, is a key port for seafood shipments, and a primary market for such products as manta ray gill rakers and shark fin. Local customs officers are tasked with inspecting a high volume of shipments at ports as well as surveilling markets for illegal products. To help them improve detections of illegal wildlife species, WildAid, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Guangdong Fisheries Law Enforcement recently co-hosted a training for 80 customs and enforcement officers in Guangzhou.
The main purpose of this training was to help agents to quickly identify products from eight protected species, including manta gill rakers (known as peng yu sai), shark fin and the swim bladder of the totoaba — a critically endangered fish indigenous to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. The totoaba swim bladders are smuggled from Mexico.