Surging Environmental Crime: Illegal Trade of Ivory
By admin November 11, 2014

trade of ivory

While there is a growing collective effort in the global community in reducing the illicit trade on drugs and human trafficking, there is a surge of another sub-category of illicit trade: environmental crime. From illegal logging to elephant poaching, environmental crime is now worth up to $213 billion USD a year and is helping to fund armed conflicts while cutting economic growth, especially in Africa. Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program, noted that many criminal networks are making phenomenal profits from environmental crimes, which have been increasingly functioning as key financing machines for these illicit networks. The illegal trade of ivory has been growing as an increasingly profitable sector due to the increase of demand and decrease in supply as a result of regulation.

For centuries elephants have been hunted for their tusks, either for trophies or as a canvas for the centuries-old art of ivory carving and jewelry making. Since 1976, both African and Asian elephants are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international agreement between governments with the aim to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Along side of the international regulation, the trade of ivory is banned under most countries’ jurisdiction. However, instead of decreasing, across Africa, the illegal slaughter of elephants is accelerating at such a pace that it is estimated that about 20,000- 25,000 elephants were killed every year since 2010. One hundred thousand elephants were killed in the past three years, which has heightened the threat of their extinction.

The country seeing the highest levels of crime surrounding the ivory trade is Tanzania, which now boasts the largest amount of illegal trade in ivory, but not a member of CITES and one in three third poached elephants in Africa were hunted in Tanzania. Even though Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete has made some public efforts to fight poaching over the past year, such as his plan to destroy the country’s ivory stockpile of 112 tonnes, state corruption runs through Tanzania’s illegal ivory trade from savannah to sea. Links between politicians and poachers have been identified, exacerbating the difficulty in halting this ivory trade practice within the country. Police have also been known to escort convoys of illicit ivory. At the bottom of the poaching networks are hired helpers who are often recruited from the armed forces. Mixed up with politics, the ivory trade has become even harder to control. The international community has not yet introduced an effective solution to tackle the surging of the illicit trade of ivory but it has started to attract attention from all levels of agencies.

The illegal trade of ivory is a serious economic and environmental problem that can disrupt whole economies and ecosystems, undermine environmentally sustainable activities, and reduce future options for the use of resources. National environmental policy regimes can have a significant impact on illegal trade of ivory. The greater use of economic incentives can complement traditional command and control approaches to regulation and can help to reduce illegal trade flows. The national and international framework for the protection of the natural environment has to evolve rapidly to contain the surging of environmental crimes.

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