Photograph — WWF

The Chinese government has taken a step in curbing the illegal activity of poaching in Africa; China has imposed a year ban on African ivory hunting trophy imports. This happens just before President Xi Jinping’s trip to Britain, where the royal family have urged China to crack down on the ivory trade.

In December 2014, Prince William gave a passionate anti-poaching speech at the World Bank in Washington DC, calling on world leaders to join him in the anti-poaching fight. Early this year, during a visit to a Chinese elephant sanctuary in the southwestern province of Yunnan, he reiterated the need to put an end to the activity.

Conservationists say China’s increasing appetite for illegal ivory imports has fuelled a surge in poaching in Africa; the country ranks as the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Just last week, in a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted, Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese ivory-trafficking mastermind was arrested in Tanzania. Dubbed the ‘Ivory queen’, Glan is said to be the bridge between African poachers and buyers in China, where elephant ivory and rhino horns fetch staggering prices. The price of raw ivory has risen sharply in the Far East. It is now reported that a horn can be exchanged at £40,000 per kilogram, compared with £33,000 for a kilogram of gold.

The 66 year old rumoured to have been in the poaching business since the 80’s, is reportedly charged with smuggling ivory worth $3 million in four years – between 2000 and 2014. Glan’s arrest is a major breakthrough in the fight against poaching, as it will lead to the arrest of other major traffickers and corrupt government officials.

“It’s a very important arrest, the most important in Africa in the past years,” said Andrea Crosta, Executive Director of the US based Elephant Action League. “The hope is that she will talk and lead the task force not only to her Chinese business partners, but also to local corrupt government officials who probably knew about it, and helped her out. Crota said Glan couldn’t have gotten away with trafficking great quantities of ivory for so long without the knowledge and collaboration of some local officials.


In 2012 alone, Africa lost 22,000 elephants to poachers. With an estimated three rhinos poached each day, 95% of the world’s rhinos have been lost in the last 40 years, with over 4,000 rhino horns illegally exported from Africa in the last four years. Valued at $19 million annually, illegal wildlife trade is one of the world’s most lucrative global criminal activities.

A statement released by the Chinese State Forestry Administration said the country will “temporarily prohibit” trophy imports until October 15, 2016 and also “suspend the acceptance of relevant administrative permits.” China’s new policy can be said to be strategic, as it comes in the nick of President Jinping’s trip to Britain this week; China’s patronage of contraband ivory will certainly be one of the top topics of discussion. The policy also follows a deal to impose almost complete bans on ivory trade, made during President Jinping’s visit to the United States last month.

Prince William explains the significance of tackling poaching activities in a blog post written for Huffington Post, valued at $19 billion annually, “illegal wildlife trade is now the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms and human trafficking.” Over the years, the trade has become ever more sophisticated and dangerous, as poachers are equipped with ever more sophisticated weaponry. “There is also increasing evidence that terrorist groups use the illegal wildlife trade to fund their activities,” said Prince Williams. Therefore an urgent and concerted global response is required.

With the arrest of Yang Feng Glan, China’s new policy, and concerted international effort to tackle wildlife the surge in wildlife crime, poaching is on the path to being eradicated in Africa.

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