Increased sales aided by slow application of anti-trafficking laws and cheap prices. Beijing pledging to eliminate sales by the end of the year, demand moves across the border. Chinese visitors buy 80% of ivory for sale in Laos. Survival of the African elephant at risk.
Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The growing demand of Chinese visitors has made Laos the fastest-growing market for ivory in the world according to conservation group Save the Elephants.
China, currently home to the world’s largest traffic in the trade, is committed to eliminating sales by the end of the year. However, with pendants, bracelets, ivory statues still popular among Chinese consumers, demand is moving beyond the border.
In a report published on September 28, Save the Elephants declares that sales in Laos have increased dramatically. The organization denounces the slow application of laws against the trading of precious material and the competitiveness of its price in the country.
In Laos, Chinese visitors buy 80% of ivory for sale, while in the two main national markets, the capital of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the number of specialized stores has increased by more than 10 times between 2013 and 2016.
The Southeast Asian country is one of the signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). This means that ivory traffic is a crime, but since 2004, when Laos entered the Convention, Vientiane has carried out only one seizure.
African ivory is very sought after in China, where it is seen as a symbol of prestige and can cost up to 1,000 euros per kilo. A similar trend in Laotian sales is found in neighboring Vietnam and Hong Kong's autonomous territory, where Chinese buyers can find it at cheaper prices.
Hong Kong is considering imposing a ban on trade, but this measure would not come into force until 2021. For the survival of large African elephants, it may be too late.