A stark reminder of the scale of the illegal trade in elephant ivory, as well as the huge financial rewards for flouting the international ban on its trade: CNN reports that four tons of elephant ivory, originating in Africa and worth $3.4 million, has been seized in Hong Kong.
The ivory, over 1200 pieces, was discovered in two shipping containers originating in Tanzania and Kenya.
The Staggering Scale of Elephant Poaching
The level of elephant poaching in Africa set a record high in 2011, with just the ivory seized by law enforcement equaling that of 4000 elephants. At the start of this year 200 elephants had been killed in Cameroon in just two weeks, with 500 dead in two months. Half of Congo's elephants have been killed in the past five years. Liberia has lost 95% of its elephants to poaching since the 1980s—when the international ban on trade in ivory went into effect, and prior to which half of Africa's elephants had already been killed for their tusks.
An estimated 70% of all illegal ivory is destined for the Chinese market.
A recent report on global trade in endangered species conducted by WWF found that when it comes to elephants, China is "failing on key aspects of compliance or enforcement"—which seems like serious understatement.