BBC current affairs programme Panorama examines China's central role in the booming illegal ivory trade, which has fuelled elephant poaching on a scale not seen since the 1980s:
As demand for ivory rises in the Far East, this Panorama special - made jointly with the BBC's Natural History Unit - goes undercover in central Africa and China to ask whether the African elephant can survive in some parts of the continent. Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory for over two decades - despite a 23 year global ban on its international sale. One area of northern Kenya has lost a quarter of its elephants in the last three years - largely due to poaching. Panorama visits an elephant orphanage to see the impact of the killing on the young and, with access to Interpol's largest ever ivory operation, confronts the dealers in Africa and in China - now the world's biggest buyer of illegal ivory. The film hears fears that, unless China curbs its huge appetite for ivory, the future of the world's largest land mammal could be in doubt.
The programme will air on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday, and be available online for a week afterwards to viewers in the UK. A preview at BBC News (UK IP address not required) includes footage from reporter Rageh Omaar's visit to the elephant orphanage. From the accompanying article:
In Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, poached ivory is openly on sale at large, unregulated markets.
While traders were wary of being filmed by a BBC TV crew, a Chinese undercover reporter working for Panorama quickly attracted the attention of sellers, using the Chinese word for ivory to good effect ….
Poached ivory from Congo or other countries is often shipped out via Kenya. Despite policing efforts, nearly 85% of ivory seized from around the world that could be traced had come from or passed through East Africa, much of it via the international airport at Nairobi.
Kenyan officials are in no doubt of its destination. "Ninety per cent of all the people we have arrested at the airports ferrying ivory are Chinese," said Julius Kipng'etich, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service
See also a BBC News report based on Panorama's findings. For more on the illegal ivory trade and China's part in it, see a Vanity Fair article from last year, 'Agony and Ivory', via CDT.