My Story on Ivory Policing and China on National Geographic’s Voice for Elephants

009I have a new story up on A Voice for Elephants at National Geographic.com.  It begins like this:

Chinese media reported last week that China has convicted a major ivory seller in Fujian and his accomplices for their role in an international ivory trafficking scheme that smuggled nearly eight tonnes of ivory out of Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

The arrest and conviction of a government-accredited ivory trader by Chinese authorities is a major law enforcement development, long overdue, and to be commended. It brings into further question, however, the decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to approve China in the first place. And it casts a further shadow over TRAFFIC, a World Wildlife Fund subsidiary hired by CITES to monitor ivory trafficking [read more]

Hong Kong Ivory Seizure: Where’s the Boss?

Last week, Hong Kong customs made a record ivory seizure. Not to take away from the work, but ivory seizures are deceptive. Unlike seizures of trafficked drugs, humans, or live wildife, ivory seizures do not protect the victim (the elephant is already dead). Seizures stop an illicit good in transit, but they also signal crime bosses to cover their tracks.  And they mean more elephants must be killed to fill a new hole in supply.

In the 22 years since an ivory ban went into effect no major transnational ivory trafficking syndicate has been identified and dismantled.  No true global ivory trafficking kingpins have gone to prison. Seizures get media attention, in part because of how big they can be financially and visually. The true measure of law enforcement is not seizures, its the courts–in China, in Hong Kong, in Japan, in Southeast Asia, and in Africa. Watch this case, if it proceeds as others have, low level individuals will go to prison, while faceless crime bosses continue their trade.