2008-07-29 08:26:00
Embassy Nairobi
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R 290826Z JUL 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 001821 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2018


(B AND D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 001821


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2018


(B AND D).

1. (C) Summary: On July 15, the CITES Standing Committee
granted China permission to import ivory from stockpiles held
by Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe despite
opposition from members of the African Elephant Coalition
(AEC) and Australia. In the face of arguments from Kenya,
Mali, and other AEC nations that permitting a one-off sale to
China would set a bad precedent and likely trigger increased
poaching, thus endangering their elephant wildlife
populations, the standing committee voted 9-3 with two
abstentions, one being the United States. The standing
committee ruled that China qualified for an exception to the
1989 ivory trade ban because of its recent seizures and
improved enforcement of CITES ivory trade regulations.
Following the one-off sale approved by CITES, several
elephant experts and wildlife conservationists residing in
Kenya uniformly agreed that the decision is unwise and
unjustified. Two even claimed China had bribed several
standing committee members to ensure passage of the one-off
sale. The United States, failure to support Kenya and the
AEC came as a major disappointment. End Summary.

Chinese arrested for Ivory Trafficking

2. (U) Following the July 15 9-3 decision by the CITES
Standing Committee to approve a one-off sale of ivory to
China from stockpiles held by Botswana, South Africa,
Namibia, and Zimbabwe, emboff canvassed the views of several
renown wildlife conservationists and elephant experts in
Kenya. They uniformly agreed that the CITES decision is
unwise and joined with members of the African Elephant
Coalition (AEC),who argued in The Hague that China did not
merit consideration and that allowing for a one-off sale
would likely spur increased poaching. Ironically on July 16,
the Kenya Customs Service (KCS) and Kenya Wildlife Service
(KWS) arrested three Chinese at Nairobi,s Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport (JKIA) after they were found possessing
36 pieces of finished and ready to sell ivory, weighing five
pounds. Earlier this year, on May 14, JKIA authorities

arrested two Chinese found illegally possessing 240 pounds of
ivory. Another group of Chinese smugglers were apprehended
in May carrying 184 pounds.

3. (C) KWS Senior Scientist Moses Litioroh, who is the
Elephant Program Coordinator with Monitoring the Illegal
Killing of Elephants (MIKE,) believes that the recent arrests
of Chinese smugglers foretell the dangers of allowing China,
reputedly the biggest black market in the world, to trade in
ivory. He decried Beijing,s lack of preventive measures
against illegal trading. Litioroh fears that the CITES
decision will unleash pent-up demand for ivory within Africa,
saying "this (decision) will open a wider market for ivory, which
will then fuel more demand for ivory leading to increased
poaching of our elephants." He sees the one-off sale
opening the door to foreign poachers, thus placing
significant pressure on Kenya to protect its elephant
population from surrounding unstable countries such as
Somalia and Sudan. Kenyan elephants are especially
vulnerable, Litioroh explained, because of Kenya's
geographical location and the KWS,s limited resources due to
a severe reduction in tourism revenue resulting from the
January-February post-election violence. He contended
surrounding countries are most interested in Kenya,s
wildlife population as means of getting rich quick and may
try to send arms and marauders into Kenya to poach its
elephants. Litioroh boldly charged that neighboring
countries will do anything possible to get a hold of the
tusks of Kenya,s jumbos ) including shooting KWS rangers.
(Note: Somali elephant poachers killed three KWS rangers and
seriously wounded another on May 19, 2007, while en route to
Tsavo East National Park.) &Not only will more elephants
die but the people who protect them are also likely to die as
well,8 he predicted.

Allegations of Bribery by China

4. (C) Litioroh alleged China bought off several standing
committee members, but did not pinpoint which countries he
believes were bribed. He even hinted that China unduly
influenced the CITES Secretariat in order to raise the
possibility of an exception to the ban. Litioroh argued that
China in its attempt to buy influence mimicked Japan, who he
claimed in the past had allegedly bribed the CITES
Secretariat to permit the Japanese to conduct &scientific
whaling.8 James Isiche, East Africa Regional Director of
the International Fund for Animal Wildlife (IFAW),concurred
with Litioroh that the Chinese likely bribed several
committee members, but Isiche, too, did not name anyone.

5. (C) Saying he is dismayed by the CITES decision, Isiche is
skeptical that the Chinese will be able to monitor the
one-off sale. In Isiche,s opinion, China was not
investigated properly. Only 10% of the contraband that is
normally detected was seized by China in recent years. This
small percentage, he maintained, is not enough for CITES to
make such a conclusive decision in China,s favor. Isiche
joined with Litioroh and other Kenyan observers in arguing
that the Chinese have done a lax job in controlling illegal
ivory trade in their country. In the meantime, Kenya will
need to devote more resources towards protecting its 33,000
elephants, but Isiche worries that the Kenyan government is
unlikely to do so at a time when there are more pressing
issues such as healthcare and free public education. He
agreed with Litioroh that the recent one-off sale is a signal
to ivory smugglers to proceed because the market is now open.
He states that in the past five years ivory has risen from
$200 to $850 per kilo. He proposes that this increase will
cause Japan and China to compete in ivory trade, thus causing
ivory prices to go up, while creating more incentives to

Doubts about Southern Africa,s Merit

6. (C) Isiche doubts that the Southern African ivory
exporting countries will use the revenue from the one-off
sales to Japan and China for conservation purposes. He
posited that South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe
benefited from a second buyer which would make the market
more competitive and favorable to them in terms of
negotiating one-off sale prices. Isiche noted that although
Kenya has a difficult challenge Central Africa faces an even
larger problem in protecting its elephants against poaching.
The Deputy Director of the African Conservation Center James
Ndungu similarly fears that CITES, good intention to rid
ivory stockpiles from Southern African countries will cause
more harm than good. There are other, more lucrative
alternatives. Isiche, Ndungu, and others argued that
elephants generate far more revenue through tourism.

CITES Disappoints Kenya

7. (C) Ali Kaka, Executive Director of The East African
Wildlife Society (EAWS),asks that the United States joins
with Kenya in demanding that CITES ensures transparency among
the contracting parties. Kenya, he underscored, is
disappointed in CITES and feels that the Secretariat used its
discretion to approve China without guaranteeing that the
member states comment on how the transactions will be
regulated. Although he feels that the decision will not be
reversed, he hopes that Kenya and the U.S. can raise
awareness regarding the lack of knowledge of the trade
arrangement,s details and the rashness of CITES, decision.
Kaka echoed concerns about the vulnerability of Kenya,s
wildlife because of the country,s location and recent
post-election violence. Kaka argued this second CITES
exception would cause a lot of confusion in Africa by
misleading people into believing that the ban is lifted and
thus inevitably causing more killing of elephants for ivory
trade. He predicted that Kenya would deploy its armed forces
to stop the illegal killing of elephants and would do so if
poaching noticeably increases as a result of the one-off sale.

AWF to bring Chinese to Kenya

8. (C) The Director of Conservation Science for African
Wildlife Foundation (AWF),Dr. Philip Muruthi, also believes
that the ivory sale to China, if not monitored, will trigger
more illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. He fears that
China will not be able to regulate the sale and too worries
that it will inevitably increase poaching. What CITES failed
to see, in his view, is that the preservation of African
elephants is more beneficial and profitable than a collective
sale of ivory because it generates tourism and creates jobs.
To lessen demand, Muruthi said the AWF intends to educate the
Chinese about wildlife conservation and will arrange exchange
programs that bring them to Kenyato witness the beauty and
value of elephant wildlife conservation as an alternative to
ivory handcrafts.

9. (C) Independent elephant and rhino researcher and
geographer Dr. Esmond Bradley Martin said CITES members
inappropriately assume that China can manage trade in ivory
as Japan does. He explained that Japan is capable of
monitoring ivory because its heavier ivory products are so
exclusive and expensive that very few people outside Japan
would want to purchase them. China on the other hand is more
susceptible to transshipment of ivory because its artisans
demand a lighter ivory that is more affordable and readily
attainable in most countries. There is a bigger market for
this light ivory because it requires less craftsmanship yet
may offer the same price. No one really knows the impact
this new decision will have on the market, Martin confessed,
but if it prompts an increase in the current price of ivory
then poaching will surely intensify. Although CITES
maintains that the growing numbers of illegal ivory seizures
in China reflect more vigorous law enforcement, Martin holds
that the confiscations just show that more ivory is coming
into the country. Martin, who is widely recognized as the
world,s foremost expert on trade in ivory, is not convinced
that China has refined its regulatory regime to prevent
transshipment of raw ivory and finished ivory pieces.

The World Did Not Listen

10. (C) Senior Assistant KWS Director for Biodiversity,
Research, and Monitoring Patrick Omondi, who led the Kenyan
delegation to The Hague, said CITES and the world community
ignored the reservations presented by Kenya and other AEC
members in allowing China and Japan to buy 180 tons of ivory.
Omondi complained the CITES,s decision was based on
&politics and not science.8 There was no scientific
justification for CITES to certify China, especially given
its reputation as a lead destination for illegal ivory.
Kenya is resigned to the decision however unwise. Once the
one-off sale is completed, there will be a nine-year ban on
ivory sales, during which CITES will monitor the impact of
the one-off sale. Omondi said Kenya will also monitor the
sale,s impact on its elephant population.

11. (C) In contrast to views held by other wildlife experts,
Omondi does not feel that Kenya,s elephant monitoring
operations will suffer. He said KWS elephant protection
efforts have kept pace despite the post-election violence and
90% reduction in tourism in 1Q 2008. Kenya is financially
capable of monitoring illegal ivory trade, he contended, and
will recover from the post-election violence by the end of
the year. But the China sale does put added pressure on
Kenya, which plans to increase the number of men trained as
rangers, purchase more vehicles, and deploy the army if need
be to quell poaching. KWS, Omondi confided, will likely
request additional funds from the Treasury and its
international partners to bolster its protection capacity.

AEC Campaign to End Exceptions

12. (C) Although the CITES decision can not be reversed,
Omondi revealed that the AEC plans to meet in June 2009 in
Geneva, where Kenya will submit a proposal to end any
additional exceptions to the 1989 ban on ivory sales for any
country. At a minimum, Kenya wants to stop China from ever
trading again, after the nine-year ban on ivory trade is
completed. (Note: In 2016, new countries will be able to
submit proposals for a one-off sale.) Omondi strongly
believes that there will never be another exception to the

13. (C) In the meantime, Kenya hopes that during the
nine-year ban the international community will raise funds
for the African Elephant Fund (AEF) to assist the protection
efforts of poor countries like Senegal, Mali, and Chad.
Kenya and the AEC have already asked that China and Japan
contribute to the AEF fund. Omondi said France has already
awarded 50,000 euros towards this project. Although a kind
gesture, Omondi feels it useless for European countries like
France to give aid to Kenya to protect its wildlife but allow
the same animals to be killed through their careless support
of China.

14. (C) Omondi acknowledged that Kenya feels betrayed by the
developed world. He described the July 2008 meeting as a
"battle" between the industrial world and the developing
world. Most developed countries in his view do not have the
expanse of biodiversity which would engender more sensitivity
to the wildlife concerns of African and Asian countries.
Therefore, he finds it illogical that the European Union has
the greatest representation on this issue in the CITES
Standing Committee and thus can easily override the voices of
African countries. Omondi confessed Kenya,s disappointment
in the United States delegation, which he said did not speak
throughout the entire CITES Standing Committee meeting. In
Kenya,s view, the USG should have sent a resolute message
opposing the one-off sale to China, rather than abstaining
and mixed messages. For Omondi, American abstention meant
lack of leadership. KWS will continue to collaborate with
the United States on wildlife issues but will think twice
before asking Washington for direction. Omondi argued that
had the USG spoken in support of Kenya and the AEC it would
have changed the outcome of the CITES decision. In the
meantime, Kenya will continue to facilitate dialogue on
elephant conservation within Africa and the world.