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Report: China Presidential Delegation Smuggled Ivory out of Tanzania

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A new report claims a delegation of Chinese President Xi Jinping illegally purchased thousands of kilograms of ivory during a 2013 visit to Tanzania.

The accusation was made Thursday in an Environmental Investigation Agency report that said Chinese demand for ivory is devastating Tanzania’s elephant population.

The EIA said the Chinese delegation used the March 2013 visit to sneak the elephant tusks out of the country in diplomatic bags on Xi’s airplane.

The report by the Britain-based non-governmental organization cited ivory smugglers in Dar es Salaam, who said the purchases caused local ivory prices to double.

It added that Chinese diplomatic and military staff, along with Chinese businessmen, have in the past used such visits to purchase large amounts of ivory.

China has not responded to the accusations, but in the past has said it is doing all it can to prevent illegal wildlife poaching.

Largest market of smuggled ivory

China is the world’s largest market for smuggled ivory. The material is seen as a status symbol and is used both for decorative objects and in traditional Chinese medicine.

International ivory trading was banned in the 1980s in an effort to protect elephants, tens of thousands of whom are killed by poachers each year for their tusks.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species last year named China among eight nations failing to do enough to fight the import of illegally smuggled ivory.

Tanzania is a close ally of China. On a visit to Beijing last month, President Jakaya Kikwete signed business deals reported to be worth $1.7 billion.

Under Kikwete’s rule, the EIA said the country’s elephant population has dwindled from 142,000 in 2005 to what it says will be about 55,000 in 2015.

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