opinionBy Shifan Wu
The sharp increase in elephant poaching and illegal export of ivory in Kenya and some other countries in Africa should not be solely attributed to the increase of the number of Chinese nationals and companies in Africa as claimed by some media.
Ivory is not only smuggled to China, but to the rest of Asia, Middle East, Europe and the USA. The number of Chinese nationals involved in ivory smuggling and illegal trade are very few. Their offences and immorality shall by no means represent or ruin the overall excellent image of China as well as its nationals and companies both at home and abroad.
What fails to be acknowledged is that China has extremely stringent laws and regulations against illegal ivory trade and the penalties are severe with "zero tolerance".
China has added the African Elephant to the list of the "First-class wildlife under special state protection", so that ivory and its products are strictly controlled by law and offenders sentenced to up to life imprisonment.
It is important to note that there exists a legal trade regime in ivory sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES).
In a bid to stem illegal poaching, CITES allowed a 62-tonne batch of elephant tusks to be imported legally into China under strict regulations. The non-poached ivory stockpiles were bought by Chinese traders at auctions and China was permitted to become a licensed buyer of ivory.
The Chinese government requested all markets to earmark their ivory products with unified icons to check the flow of the products and set up a database information system on all ivory products to ensure no illegal ivory enters the legal market.
Illegal ivory trade is a big concern for China, just as it is to the rest of the world. In the wake of rising cases of poaching and illegal ivory trade in Africa, China has adopted measures and established robust controls to manage the legally stockpiled ivory to ensure it is not exported and is effectively monitored within China.
First, China has been conducting regular inspections and examinations of ivory stockpiles and restricts the annual consumption of ivory raw material.
Second, it has set up an inter-department special coordination team with advanced technologies to strengthen the joint and cooperative law-enforcement practice under the regulations of the CITES.
Third, it has set up a special fund for international protection of elephants.
China has in many occasions reiterated that that it values endangered species and has adopted effective measures against the smuggling and illegal trade in ivory, rhino horns and parts of other endangered species.
The Chinese government fully supports Kenya's conservation and anti-smuggling efforts and is willing to conduct bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Kenya and other affected African countries.
Aware of Kenya and Africa's concerns, the Chinese embassies in African countries launched campaigns and have been educating the Chinese citizens and companies in Africa against engaging in unlawful activities with an emphasis on ivory and rhino horn trade.
The customs of China itself conducts strict checks and examinations on ivory, rhino horns and parts of other endangered species and will implement even stricter measures to curb this menace.
Stakeholders should consider working together and consulting the affected countries in view of forging a united front against poaching. China highly appreciates the various efforts made by Kenya in protecting elephants by combating poaching and smuggling.
China is open and ready to work with relevant countries and organizations to address such issues in a fair, objective and effective manner.
Shifan Wu is the spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.