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Namibia's Chinese Ivory Smugglers


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% since 2005 to over 20,000.

Namibia’s zero tolerance policy for poachers may explain in part why they have been able to succeed where so many other states have failed. Yet despite their 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 to explain how the ivory trade works within the Chinese community in Namibia and why it will be very difficult to stop.

Show Notes:

About Shi Yi:

Shi Yi is a Shanghai-based journalist who reported on the environment for Thepaper.cn since its launch in 2014, covering topics such as biodiversity and climate change. Since 2016 she has written for its English-language site Sixth Tone, also owned by the Shanghai United Media Group.

Kalamely Nature Reserve in Xinjiang has been repeatedly diminished to allow for mining, putting rare wildlife at risk. Thepaper.cn journalist Shi Yi filed a series of reports on this, bringing the case to the attention of the central government. A subsequent memo from Xi Jinping resulted in an undercover visit by Party Central Committee investigators, as well as a public visit by Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang Party Secretary, during which plans for the most recent reduction of the reserve were halted. At the end of 2015 the plans were scrapped for good.

This, and other outstanding reports by Shi Yi, won her the Journalist of the Year award. In the southern Africa country of Namibia she investigated the illegal trade in ivory, posing as a buyer to make contact with traders of illegal animal products. On publication of her report local police raided an illegal marketplace. Such reports bolster the international fight against poaching and demonstrate China’s increased awareness of her international responsibilities.


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