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Animal Attraction: Africa's Killing Fields Revisited

by Stacy Fox

Posted on December 17, 2012 at 5:27 AM

A massive seizure of 1,500 ivory tusks in Port Klang, rumored to weigh a staggering 20 to 24 English tons, has stunned the conservation world.

"Last year, 2011, was described by trade experts as the worst year for elephants in decades," said Will Travers, chief executive officer of the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA. "This latest seizure coming, as it does, on top of 900 kilograms seized in New York in July, 1,500 kilograms in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May and two seizures, one of 3,810 kilograms in October and another of 1,330 kilograms in November in Hong Kong, means the bloody ivory trade has reached new heights of destruction and depravity in 2012.”
This latest seizure was carried out by Royal Malaysian Customs officers at Port Klang, just outside Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur. The shipment, reportedly, involved 10 crates, divided between two containers, shipped from the Port of Lomé in Togo, West Africa, destined for China, via Spain. The ivory was hidden in secret compartments underneath "wooden floor tiles.”

Travers continued: "I thought that when the international ivory trade ban was agreed in 1989, we would see a permanent reversal of fortunes for this beleaguered species. How wrong I was — the respite was temporary. Experts estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants are being illegally killed each year to fuel demand, largely driven by China. No part of Africa is now safe. Across the continent, for the first time, the number of carcasses recorded as a result of poaching exceeds the number reportedly dying from natural causes."

And the situation could get even worse.

With only three months to run before the 16th meeting of 176 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a proposal has been put forward by Tanzania seeking approval for the sale of more than 100 tons of stockpiled ivory to China and Japan. Analysis by Born Free's trade experts concludes that, far from meeting demand and depressing poaching, this is fuelling demand and incentivising another wave of slaughter.

"I fear that elephants may disappear entirely from those parts of Africa least able to protect them from the onslaught" said legendary actress Virginia McKenna, OBE, founder of The Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA. "The fragile elephant populations of West and Central Africa are most at risk, but even countries such as Kenya, with the well-trained and well-resourced rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), are operating at full stretch and losing their lives in the process."

There are no easy answers but Born Free, together with other conservation charities with many years' experience working in Africa, are calling on Tanzania to withdraw its proposal; for China and Japan's ivory trading nation status to be revoked; and for the international community to come forward with the resources necessary to fund the African Elephant Action Plan, the only viable blueprint for elephant survival agreed by all 37 African elephant range states.

Born Free is calling on the public to make its opposition to any further ivory trade known by registering at, where the latest details of the Malaysian mega-seizure and other interceptions can be found.

Born Free USA