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In this week’s news wrap two major conservation groups have called for the closure of Japan’s domestic ivory market; a lion cub was speared during what appears to be a human-wildlife conflict in Maasai Mara; 216 elephant tusks were seized in southeast Cameroon; and a recent study has revealed that pangolin smugglers are constantly opening up new global trade routes every year to avoid law enforcement agencies. 

Japan’s ivory market must close down, according to study (full story: AG Decoding Science)
Ivory products for sale in Japan
Elephant ivory figurines, chopsticks and jewellery for sale in Japan © TRAFFIC

Japan’s poorly regulated domestic ivory market and efficient transnational criminal networks are among the factors driving the illegal export of ivory products to other countries. Due to this continued absence of effective regulation and law enforcement, two major conservation groups are calling for the closure of Japan’s domestic ivory market in accordance with CITES.

In a report released on Wednesday by TRAFFIC and WWF, researches found that ivory products have become increasingly popular among antique and tourist markets where unregistered ivory is bought for illegal exports.

With China announcing that it would shut down all ivory trade by the end of this year, concerns have been raised that Japan’s failure to prevent illegal ivory exports will undermine China’s prospective ban and the efforts to end the global trafficking of elephant tusks.

With the substantial evidence, the report has urged the Japanese government to raise public awareness about the controls on illegal ivory and to tighten up on the controls at customs to prevent items such as ivory hanko stamps and figurines from leaving the country. It goes on to say that with China shutting down its legal ivory trade on 31st December, that Japan and other key countries should follow suit.

Lion cub speared, recovers (full story: AG News Desk)
Mother lion with cub
The cub after treatment © Epic Wildlife Images

A tiny lion cub from the famous Ridge Pride in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve was speared during what appears to be a human-wildlife conflict incident. The cub was impaled into the ground by the spear and unable to get away, but its mother refused to leave the scene and stood guard. The culprit has yet to be found.

A team led by vet Dr. Njoroge was flown in from Nairobi to attend to the cub and, after successful treatment (disinfecting and stitching up the wound), the cub was released back to its mother and appeared to be recovering well. The wound missed vital organs and was not deep. The lioness lost another cub to buffaloes recently and a third cub was injured – probably during a fight with other lions.

216 elephant tusks seized in southeast Cameroon (full story: WWF)
seized elephant tusks in Cameroon
© Luc Evouna / WWF

Wildlife authorities in Cameroon have seized 216 elephant tusks and 81 elephant tails in a pickup vehicle that belongs to an army colonel in the South Region of the country. The seizure of 216 tusks means poachers have killed at least 128 elephants. However, it remains unclear if all the tusks and tails were collected from elephants poached in protected areas in Southeast Cameroon alone or from neighbouring Gabon and Congo Republic.

This is one of the biggest seizures rangers and the police have carried out in Cameroon and the third mega seizure of elephant tusks in 2017, bringing the number of elephant tusks seized in 2017 alone to at least 600, the majority of them coming from the southeast of the country.

According to ongoing investigations, the suspects, now in police custody, allegedly work for a high-ranking military officer whom it is claimed has been using his privileged position and state assets to carry out illegal activities for several years now including suspected poaching and wildlife crime.

Pangolin trafficking: Research reveals new routes (full story: AG Decoding Science)
African pangolin
Known as the world’s most trafficked mammal, all eight (four Asian and four African) species of pangolins are prohibited from international trade under CITES © Christian Boix

recent study has revealed that pangolin smugglers are constantly opening up new global trade routes every year to avoid law enforcement agencies.

In light of the recent, world’s largest, pangolin seizure where 11.9 tonnes of scales were confiscated from a ship in Shenzhen, China, the new research highlights the challenge of tackling the trade of the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Released by the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC and IUCN, the comprehensive analysis reveals that an average of 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts have been trafficked internationally every year, with the smugglers using 27 new routes for their illegal trade every year. Smuggling networks have become highly mobile and adaptable to shifting and creating new routes.

The findings show that 67 countries/territories were implicated with the recorded 1,270 cross-border pangolin seizures.

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