On Tuesday, Dateline features a special, international investigation by the BBC’s Rageh
Omaar, starting in the jungles and plains of central Africa, where the battle between poachers and the authorities is becoming increasingly violent.
Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory for over two decades – a record 23 tonnes of tusks, equal to the slaughter of around 2,500 elephants. From Kenya to Zambia, African law-enforcement and conservation authorities are facing a continuing battle with the poachers. In the last few years alone, an area of northern Kenya has lost a quarter of its elephants, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo conservationists fear fewer than 20,000 of the region’s forest elephants remain in the Congo basin.
A 1989 ban by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
gave elephants the highest level of protection, effectively banning the international trade in ivory, but hidden camera footage in the report shows how easily it can be purchased in Africa. With access to Interpol’s largest ever ivory operation, the investigation follows the smuggling route from Africa to the shops and markets of China, where growing demand is driving the illegal trade.
The debate over the legal ivory trade set to be reignited later this year when more African countries are expected to put in requests to sell stockpiled ivory, but campaigners are arguing that the existence of a legal trade is helping to provide cover for a much more extensive black market.
Tuesday 1 May, 9.30pm on SBS ONE.