The following is an excerpt from IBTimes Staff Reporter | June 8, 2012 | ibtimes.com |
The bodhisattva Guanyin is venerated as a symbol for compassion and mercy by Buddhists in East Asia. Translated into English, her name means “attentive to the cries of the world.” It is all the more tragically ironic then, that her image is a popular subject for ivory artisans in China, often working with illicit materials sourced from the slaughter of African elephants.
African governments — and international animal-rights organizations — contend the Chinese luxury consumer’s appetite for ivory is driving a new wave of illegal killing of one of their continent’s most iconic animals.
Demand is only one side of the equation: Poor oversight and shoddy legal enforcement across countries are other reasons why dealers in fresh ivory are now able to avail themselves of an illicit pathway from Central and West Africa to artisan shops in Southern China — and ultimately onto mantles and shelves in the homes and offices of China’s rising upper class.
The illegal trade in ivory is not only a major issue in conservation but also increasingly a problem of international organized crime and illicit trafficking, an illustration of developing-world resource mismanagement, and an expression of the gaps in transnational security.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the illegal ivory trade a “multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise” at a committee hearing on poaching held May 24. Kerry said the illicit trafficking of ivory is a “menace to developing economies” and only one facet of a globally interlinked network that includes illegal exploitation of timber and mineral resources.
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