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China's Role in the Illegal African Ivory Trade

Elephant and rhino poaching top the agenda again on the show this week following a pair of very high-profile media stories from the New York Times and National Geographic TV. There seems to be a growing awareness in the West, or at least among certain media producers, that China’s seemingly endless appetite for ivory is having a devastating impact on Africa’s elephant and rhino populations.

However, our panel rightly points out that the West’s indignation over elephant poaching is a form of rather selective outrage as the same uproar is no longer heard over conflict diamonds or the increasingly violent consequences of small-arms trafficking in Africa. Additionally, China Global South Project editor Tendai Musakwa accurately comments that despite the dramatic increase in poaching, the elephant is not an endangered species. In fact, in several parts of southern Africa, elephant OVER-population is a more pressing problem.

The point is not defend the Chinese or trivialize the tragic loss of animal life for what is seemingly purely material reasons. No. Instead, our panel concluded that like most China/Africa issues, this one is very complicated and the often emotional reaction from Westerners in conjunction with often unbalanced media reporting creates a powerful, often ill-informed response.

This has been a particularly popular topic on the China Global South Project Facebook page where we invite you to join the discussion and share your thoughts on what can realistically be done to curb Chinese demand for ivory and hopefully avoid the extinction of these beautiful animals.

Here are the links that we referred to in this week’s podcast with respect to the Chinese role in the African ivory trade:

What is The China-Global South Project?


The China-Global South Project is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Global South stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalists and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Global South discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.