Chinese authorities announced in a statement on Monday the arrest of 16 people in connection with a major wildlife smuggling ring and the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of ivory, along with rhino horns and bear paws. The huge haul has been valued at a whopping $3.8 million (24 million yuan).
Beijing Forest Police have said that the goods amounted to 804kg of ivory, as well as a further 11.3 kg of rhino horns and 35 bear paws. These are suspected to have been smuggled to the mainland from Japan via Hong Kong as part of a large and sophisticated criminal network ranging from Guangdong to Shandong and Beijing. Police also alleged that the gang made use of warehouses, factories and antique shops as cover for their illicit operations and used private couriers and illegal online trading for distribution.
As part of a three month country wide crackdown on the illegal trade and transport of wildlife products, the operation has been heralded as a great success by animal rights activists. The British-based anti-wildlife trafficking group, TRAFFIC, called the momentous haul and arrests a, “clear demonstration of the Chinese government’s commitment to crack down on illegal wildlife trade.”
Zhou Fei, head of TRAFFIC’s China programme, applauded the efforts of the Beijing Forest Police, “which has helped dismantle an entire smuggling ring and the infrastructure that goes with it.”
China remains the world’s largest market for illegal ivory. During Xi Jinping’s recent state visit to the US (the second biggest market) just two weeks ago, the two countries jointly pledged to take significant steps toward ending the domestic commercial trade of ivory. Growing efforts in China to increase awareness about illegal trade in endangered animals through anti-smuggling campaigns, as well as recent public outrage on social media at stories of abject animal cruelty, are helping to turn the tide. Monday’s announcement has also come just after authorities in Tanzania brought charges against Yang Feng Glan, nicknamed the “Ivory Queen”, a Chinese woman accused of smuggling 1.9 tons of ivory between Jan. 1, 2000, and May 22, 2014.
by Daniel Paul
[Images via NetEase / Sina]