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Groundbreaking Report Commissioned by Born Free USA Uncovers Ivory Supply Chain from Poached African Elephants to Markets in Asia

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Born Free USA and C4ADS released a groundbreaking report, Out of Africa: Mapping the Global Trade in Illicit Elephant Ivory, which focuses on the ivory supply chain and the trafficking of ivory from the bush in Africa to retail markets tens of thousands of miles away in Asia. This information comes four months after the groups' shocking report, Ivory's Curse: The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa, which detailed the poaching crisis and its links to violent militias, organized crime, and government corruption. View the full report at www.bornfreeusa.org/OutOfAfrica.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, "The ivory trade is operating today at the highest level since the 1989 commercial ivory trade ban. Our investigation reveals that between 2009 and June 2014, there were more than 90 large-scale ivory seizures, collectively weighing almost 170 tons that bear the hallmarks of international organized crime. This would amount to approximately 229,729 elephants killed and trafficked in fewer than six years."

"It is well known that East Asian nationals, and, in particular, the Chinese, drive the modern ivory trade. However, the scale we found in our investigation was shocking; Chinese traffickers are present in virtually every single African range state, and operate at nearly every point along the ivory supply chain," Roberts explains.

Varun Vira, Chief of Analysis at C4ADS and co-author of the report commissioned by Born Free USA, said, "The ivory trade is worth billions of dollars but is still talked about as if it were an unprofessional, disorganized, and artisanal industry, of concern only to conservationists. In reality, it is a highly organized, complex global crime that has avoided consequence for decades. However, our report reveals that there may be as few as 100 large-scale ivory containers moving annually that drive the vast majority of the entire illegal trade. Focusing efforts on intercepting these containers and tracing back their owners and facilitators can have a real impact on the trade."

Out of Africa provides a detailed examination of the illicit ivory supply chain, including:

  • Illegal ivory flows primarily in containers through the international shipping system. At least 100 containers may be moving annually, the majority through a small number of chokepoints.
  • A large majority of all of the illegal ivory is accounted for within a small number of transactions; through a small number of ports and airports; and to a small number of criminal networks.
  • Just the three ports of Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar in Kenya and Tanzania exit the majority of shipments, pointing to the need for more carefully-targeted enforcement efforts.
  • The top three airports in the chain are in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg.
  • Traffickers able to operate from the forest to the market can earn more than 2,500% in profit margins.
  • Ivory and wildlife trafficking networks operate within a networked black market that has a high degree of convergence with other forms of organized crime activity. Ivory traffickers do not necessarily run guns or narcotics themselves, but they rely on -- and help enrich -- facilitators who are interwoven into the systems that enable terrorist financing, drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.

Roberts adds, "The greatest challenge to combat the wildlife trade is a lack of adequate information on how the trade functions. Our report seeks to bridge that gap, providing actionable insights, and replicable and scalable processes, to help mobilize tangible action for the policy, intelligence, and law enforcement communities."

The Born Free USA team has focused on wildlife trafficking for more than two decades, and advocated vociferously for the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) uplisting of African elephants to Appendix I, thus shutting down the commercial international trade in elephant ivory. The organization maintains a global wildlife trade program and is at the forefront of campaigns to protect imperiled species, including from the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn, tiger bone, lion trophies, and bear gallbladders.

Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of "compassionate conservation" — the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film "Born Free," along with their son Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org; www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

C4ADS is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide. C4ADS' approach leverages nontraditional investigative techniques and emerging analytical technologies. The organization recognizes the value of working on the ground in the field, capturing local knowledge, and collecting original data to inform analysis, as well as employing cutting-edge technology to manage and analyze data. The result is an innovative analytical approach to conflict prevention and mitigation. More at www.c4ads.org.

SOURCE Born Free USA