Our investigation is revealing insights into why elephant numbers are falling to lower levels than ever recorded. An international ban on trading ivory has been in place since 1989. Since then, the body that governs the trade, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), has allowed two large auctions of stockpiled ivory.
According to Bryan Christy, these two sales gave cover to ivory smugglers in China, and the underground market exploded. According to CITES, 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa last year, though other observers say it could be many more. In Tanzania alone, poachers kill 30 elephants a day. The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that 84 percent of the ivory sold in China is illegal.
Since the opening up of the Chinese market and the growth of its economy, ivory, once a precious material available only to the ruling elite, has become increasingly available to the growing Chinese middle class.
A luxury goods store in Beijing allowed our cameras into their showroom where Christy explains how those auctions complicate what’s for sale legally and what’s not.
WATCH THE FULL ONLINE SERIES:
- Battle for the Elephants: Web Series Intro
- Episode 1: The Plight of the Elephant
- Episode 2: Criminal Traders Exposed
- Episode 3: The China Ivory Market
- Episode 4: Massive Ivory Stockpile