Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports.
It's one of the most lucrative criminal activities in the world - and one condemned as insidious by Prince William on his recent visit to the US. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITAIN'S DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE, PRINCE WILLIAM SAYING: "They loot our planet, to feed mankind's ignorant craving for exotic pets, trinkets, cures and ornaments derived from the world's vanishing and irreplaceable species." The ivory trade has claimed the lives of 100,000 African elephants between 2010 and 2012 And a report from Save the Elephants and the Aspinall Foundation says the illegal trade is booming. Much of it down to demand from China. Report author Esmond Martin says this must be tackled. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CONSERVATIONIST/IVORY TRADE INVESTIGATOR, ESMOND MARTIN, SAYING: "They are buying 95-98 percent from these open markets and then they are buying wholesale of course the big tusks which are going to China for legal markets and illegal markets .... The price of Ivory in its raw form, wholesale in China, has tripled in the last three or four years." Researchers found that the number of ivory items on sale in Shanghai and Beijing jumped by nearly two thirds in 2014 compared to a 2002 study. And elephant and rhino poaching has surged in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries like Kenya have clamped down and they say poaching is hurting tourism, a major foreign exchange earner. Report co-author Lucy Vigne say it only scratches the surface of the illegal trade. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LUCY VIGNE, RESEARCHER, SAYING: "It was very difficult to see this Ivory going on, the sale coming from Africa and seeing the devastation of our Elephant population and realizing that actually we were only visiting the outlets showing the tip of the iceberg in terms of Ivory being sold." Chinese officials have insisted that they only use ivory bought at legal auctions. China's long tradition of ivory carving is enjoying a boost as incomes rise in the world's second-largest economy. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RESEARCHER, LUCY VIGNE, SAYING: "It's the Chinese within the country who are buying the ivory and they consider it a very beautiful substance from a very powerful animal bringing them good luck and a sense of safety in their homes and they use it for decorative purposes." Conservation groups warn that elephant populations face an immediate threat of extinction if the ivory trade is not tackled.