This week’s Special Assignment brings you a third episode in our ongoing investigation into ivory poaching in Northern Mozambique and its spread to South Africa. We focus on the links between ivory, rhino poaching and canned lion hunting and reveal the impact of a trade steeped in violence and greed.
Today the value of ivory exceeds that of gold. It is driven by the demand in Asia, where its use is purely decorative, a status symbol for the emerging middle class.
An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts. Since 2011, tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered in Tanzania and Mozambique, making levels of poaching the worst they have been since 1989, when CITES declared an international ban on the ivory trade. Despite the ban, between 2009 and 2014 a staggering 170 tons of ivory was smuggled from Mozambique, via Tanzania to China, by international poaching syndicates. Between 2010 and 2015, the price of ivory in China tripled, driving illicit poaching through the roof.
Although South Africa is regarded a sanctuary for elephants, they are increasingly under threat, like the rhino, by poachers coming from Mozambique. Between January and September 2015, 800 rhinos were killed in South Africa for their horns, bringing the total to 4,635 rhinos killed since 2007.
Controversially, the Supreme Court recently overturned a moratorium on the local trade in rhino horn, sparking intense debate between pro and anti trade groups.
Our anti-poaching units have scored notable successes in the war against poaching. Over the past five and a half years, almost 500 Mozambicans, intercepted while poaching in the park, have been shot dead by South African game rangers and security forces. Our courts are meting out much stiffer sentences to convicted poachers, of between 40 to 70 years but South Africa’s ambiguous wildlife conservation policies are increasingly coming under fire. And conservationists warn that our reputation as a pro-conservation country is at stake. They also warn of an impending ivory avalanche that could ultimately obliterate this majestic species.
Watch “Beware the Avalanche Part III”, produced by Hazel Friedman for Special Assignment on SABC 3 at 20h30 on Sunday
Repeated Wednesdays at 23h30