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China, the world’s biggest ivory consumer, wants to help Zimbabwe stop poaching

Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
A Chinese national, stands inside the dock at the Makadara Law courts in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, arrested for trying to smuggle raw elephant ivory to Guangzhou
By Sibusiso Tshabalala
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

China, the world’s biggest consumer of ivory, has donated equipment worth $2 million to assist Zimbabwe’s anti-poaching efforts.

The donation comes after the global outrage over the killing of Cecil, a famous Zimbabwean lion, and calls for tougher measures against the illegal hunting and poaching of wildlife.

The Chinese donation, which comprises of pick-up-trucks, GPS tracking devices, mobile sets, telescopes and other equipment, was bolstered up by an extra $ 100,000, which will go towards the establishment of a Zimbabwe-China foundation for the protection of wildlife.

The Herald, a Zimbabwean daily, reports that the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin, said that the country’s donation is a sign of its commitment to wildlife preservation in Zimbabwe.

“On behalf of the Chinese government, the cause is to support wildlife protection in Zimbabwe. The country is facing challenges of extinction of certain animal species and China is willing to co-operate in the protection of wildlife,” said the Chinese ambassador.

Often criticized for fueling the illegal poaching of wildlife across Africa for the elephant ivory and rhino horn, China is making attempts to cut down on ivory trade.

In February this year, China’s State Forestry Administration imposed a one-year moratorium on the imports of carved ivory. This was followed by a symbolic gesture in May this year, where 662kg of confiscated ivory was destroyed in Beijing, and the country made a commitment to gradually bring the commercial processing and sale of ivory products to a halt.

Changing attitudes

While the demand for ivory, particularly amongst China’s middle class, continues to be high, attitudes are changing. In China, elephant ivory—which drives 70% of elephant poaching—is highly valued for luxury consumers goods, like artworks and jewellery.

A study (pdf, pg. 2) on ivory demand in China by Wild Aid surveyed 961 residents in three major Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in 2012, to understand the levels of elephant conservation status amongst China’s ivory consumers.

In 2014, Wild Aid conducted the same study with 935 Chinese participants, to assess if their international campaign to reduce ivory demand in China–“Be Ivory Free”–had contributed to changes in attitudes regarding ivory consumption and awareness of elephant poaching.

Over the two-year period, awareness of the elephant poaching crisis amongst the survey participants increased.

The survey also showed a significant improvement in the participants’ awareness of how ivory is obtained

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