More African ivory is smuggled into China as Myanmar and Beijing’s ban on trade in ivory failed to dampen imports, a report by conservation group Save the Elephants said.
Wildlife activists welcomed China’s ban this year on the ivory trade, arguing the step by a country that is the world’s largest importer and end user of tusks was vital to reducing the slaughter of the species.
It has not stopped what Save the Elephants called “prolific growth” in trading in a town in the “Golden Triangle”, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, south of China.
There has been a 60% growth in new ivory items for sale in the Myanmar-China border town Mong La in the past three years and 90% of buyers are Chinese planning to smuggle the ivory home, the report said.
It gave no separate figures for the period since the ban was introduced.
Myanmar has the world’s largest population of captive elephants, 5,000, but trade in tusks at Mong La and elsewhere increasingly comes from elephants of African origin, the report said.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment.
“Demand is high in China. Myanmar has over 2,000 kilometres of borderline with China making it easy for smugglers to bring ivory across,” said researcher Lucy Vigne.
She co-authored the report with Esmond Bradley-Martin, a prominent American investigator of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade found dead in his home in the Kenyan capital with a stab wound in his neck in February.
He spent decades tracking movement of animal products, mostly from Africa to markets in Asia.