A new report accuses members of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s entourage on a state trip to Tanzania last year of loading an official plane with illegal ivory.
The report released Thursday by the Environmental Investigation Interesting , a London-based international nonprofit, said members of the Chinese delegation bought so much ivory on the March 2013 trip that prices for the illegal commodity doubled up to $700 equivalent to sh 62,000 per kilogram.
The illegal ivory trade has devastated elephant populations in the East African nation. Local traders, quoted in the report, said the contraband was allegedly bundled up and flown back to China on the presidential plane.
In a video released by the environmental agency, an alleged Tanzanian ivory dealer discusses the Chinese deals with an undercover investigator. The unnamed trader said when Xi’s entourage visited, “90 kilos go out, 90 kilos. Half of his plane goes to that business.”
When an investigator asked how he knew, the trader responded: “I know. They buy from us.” The report added that Chinese diplomatic and military staffs, along with Chinese businessmen, in the past have used such visits to purchase large amounts of ivory.
China has not responded to the accusations, but it previously has said it is doing all it can to prevent illegal wildlife poaching. China has vowed to crack down on ivory trafficking. In a ceremony in the city of Guangzhou in January, officials crushed more than 6 tons of confiscated raw and carved ivory to show their commitment.
None of this would be possible without the cooperation of Tanzanian authorities, said Shruti Suresh, an EIA wildlife campaigner.
“Seeing that there are several tons of ivory going through government posts, past government officials, it is clear that this corruption permeates through the highest levels of government,” Suresh said.
The insatiable demand for ivory, mostly from Asia, has had devastating consequences for elephant populations. Suresh called the decline of Tanzania’s elephant population “dire in the extreme.”
“It’s quite shocking,” Suresh said. “And if we don’t stop this rate of decline, we really don’t know if Tanzania will have elephants in the near future.”
Source : VOA