BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese diplomatic and military staff went on buying sprees for illegal ivory while on official visits to East Africa, sending prices soaring, an environmental activist group said Thursday.
Tens of thousands of elephants are estimated to be slaughtered in Africa each year to feed rising Asian demand for ivory products, mostly from China, the continent’s biggest trading partner.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March 2013, members of his government and business delegation bought so much ivory that local prices doubled to $700 per kilogramme, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in a report, citing ivory traders in the city of Dar es Salaam.
“When the guest come, the whole delegation, that’s then time when the business goes up,” the EIA quoted a vendor named Suleiman as saying.
The traders alleged that the buyers took advantage of a lack of security checks for diplomatic visitors to smuggle their purchases back to China on Xi’s plane.