02/07/2016 1:39 AM AEST | Updated 20/12/2016 3:45 PM AEDT

In Namibia, Chinese Ivory Smugglers Keep The Illegal Trade Alive

A look at how Namibia’s Chinese ivory smugglers operate.

AFP via Getty Images
Tusks are displayed on October 28, 2008 in Windhoek during the first legal auction of elephant tusks in nearly a decade -- exclusively for Chinese and Japanese buyers. The sale, where seven tonnes of ivory were sold for 1.1 million dollars, kicked off two weeks of auctions across southern Africa that will put 108 tonnes of tusks on the block, in a one-off sale to the Asian powers. Four African countries have been authorised by CITES, the international convention that regulates trade in endangered species, to hold the sales only to China and Japan. AFP PHOTO / Brigitte Weidlich (Photo credit should read BRIGITTE WEIDLICH/AFP/Getty Images)

Namibia is the rare country in Africa that seems to be holding its own against ivory poachers. Whereas in most other southern African countries the elephant population is being decimated, in Namibia, according to the government, the number of elephants has actually increased by 20 percent since 2005, to 20,000. Namibia's zero-tolerance policy for poachers may explain in part why the country has been able to succeed where so many other states have failed. Yet despite its best efforts, the illegal ivory trade remains a serious problem, particularly among Namibia's immigrant Chinese community.

Independent Chinese journalist Shi Yi traveled to Namibia to report on how some of the Chinese population there is involved in the illicit ivory trade. During her investigation, she discovered that a lot of the ivory trade is done by small-scale Chinese merchants, neighborhood shop owners and individuals rather than the organized crime syndicates that traffic ivory in other African countries. 

Shi Yi's reporting on the subject, both in English and Chinese, received widespread praise, including the Journalist of the Year Award at this year's China Environmental Press Awards. She joins Eric & Cobus -- in the podcast above -- to explain how the ivory trade works within the Chinese community in Namibia and why it will be very difficult to stop.

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