Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ivory: War by Other Means

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ivory: War by Other Means

Article excerpt

At first sight, the Cafe del Mar looks like any other expensive restaurant situated on the Angolan capital's fashionable Ilha de Cabo; another beach club popular with expats. But there's a different reason why the foreigners keep coming. A small but well-stocked curio kiosk beside the entrance displays neat rows of ivory carvings. "Yes, we're very popular," says the owner. "Here is our Angolan ivory," she says, waving her hand towards the cluster of white statues behind her: "But it's becoming harder to get."

Her concern is well-founded. Some 12,000 elephants are killed annually in Africa for ivory, mainly to serve American, European and now increasingly Chinese markets.

"There is a real danger that our elephants will become extinct if we don't stop the trade," says Vladimir Russo, one of the country's foremost wildlife experts. Since the end of its 27-year civil war in 2002, Angola has fast emerged as a regional hub in the illegal trade in African elephant ivory buoyed by rising consumer demand from the Far East. "There are more Chinese workers in Africa. They have money, so they buy the ivory curios. But there is potential for more [foreigners] to come--and a really big market," explains Russo.

In 1981, there were some 12,400 elephants in Angola. Now, there are said to be 246. Tom Milliken, director of the group Traffic in east and southern Africa, says the illegal ivory trade has doubled during the past year. "All the ivory traded through these local markets is coming from illicit sources. …

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