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Working with 28 countries – including the US and South Africa – and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network, Operation Cobra II agents managed to seize three tonnes of ivory, 1,000 hides, and 36 rhino horns, among other items in the illegal trade of animals.
The four-week operation involved 100,000 agents and staff. inculding from various Chinese departments such as the police, judiciary, customs and forestry.
The operation was strongly endorsed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global organisation that has targeted the nearly $20-billion illegal ivory and horn trade that has fueled massive poaching of Africa’s elephants and rhinos.
China joined CITES in 1981.
“China played a leading role in operation Cobra II,” said Wan Ziming, director of the Law Enforcement Department with the China Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office.
China will also likely play a very significant role when it participates in the London Conference On The Illegal Wildlife Trade 2014, which convenes on February 13 and draws leaders and delegates from 50 countries.
International organisers believe that China’s participation will help curb the criminal trade particularly by “reducing demand for illegal wildlife products”.
The Conference is also hoping to see progress in “strengthening law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and “supporting the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illegal wildlife trade”.
An editorial in The Independent on Sunday hailed China’s new policies to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade:
The Chinese are coming. This is good news. An official Beijing delegation will attend this week’s international conference in London on the elephant trade. This is a great gain for all those who have campaigned to save the elephants and rhinos of Africa, including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, whose idea it was to convene the conference; the British government, which agreed to support it and host it at Lancaster House on Thursday; and the readers of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, who responded so generously to our appeal, before and since Christmas.
Wildlife experts believe that a lot of the ivory, for example, eventually ends up in China.
In December, China destroyed 7,000 tonnes of seized ivory and helped launch an awareness campaign featuring Chinese athletes such as basketball icon Yao Ming who spoke about the deadly cost of the trade.
“The more that people – not just in China – understand that several precious African species are close to extinction, the better. The more that anti-scientific beliefs about the medical properties of rhino horn are exposed, the better,” The Independent on Sunday said on February 9.
In the past few years, China has upped the pressure on smugglers of ivory and horns.
During Operation Cobra II, Chinese authorities for the first time sent enforcement agents to Kenya to arrest an ivory trafficking suspect and host lectures on wildlife protection.
According to Chinese media quoting the China Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office, a suspect by the name of Xue, and two of his associates, was nabbed in Nairobi on January 17 and immediately extradited to China the next day.
Meanwhile, poaching continues to threaten the wildlife habitat of elephants and rhinos. Earlier this year, South Africa and Mozambique – both of which are expected to attend the London conference on February 13 – began cooperating to arrest poachers and curb the illegal horn trade in the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Area.
The area was formed in 2002 by South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe to cooperate on cross-border conservation.
In a further blow to poachers, the United Nations Security Council last week adopted two resolutions which said that the illegal wildlife trade was helping to fuel conflict and strife in Africa by providing armed groups with funds.
The resolutions authorise the Council to impose sanctions on any group or individual involved in wildlife trafficking.