Unreported World goes undercover to investigate how the increased Chinese presence in East Africa has lead to a huge increase in elephant poaching, with potentially devastating effects on tourism and the local economy.
The team also hears astonishing claims that when Chinese president Hu Jintao travelled to Tanzania for a state visit, his officials left with large quantities of illegal ivory.
Reporter Aidan Hartley and director Alex Nott begin their journey at a conservation area in northern Kenya, run by Kuki Gallman. She says that elephant poaching has risen from six animals in 2007 to 57 in 2009, just in her small area. It's not long before the team discovers the carcasses of several elephants, killed for their tusks. Local gamekeepers say that poachers spray herds indiscriminately with AK 47s, killing babies, mothers and pregnant elephants. Kuki says it's the highest death toll for decades and elephants are at risk of becoming extinct in the area.
The team are told that poaching is highly organised and fuelling other crimes. Poachers are armed by criminal gangs, and then use money from their proceeds to buy more weapons. The devastating effects are evident in a nearby area. One mother says that raiders from another tribe attacked her village, spraying houses with bullets. She says three of her children were killed, she herself was wounded in the leg and by the end of the day 62 people had been killed.
In Nairobi the team are granted rare access to an underground floor normally off-limits. What they see has rarely been shown on camera: a mountain of ivory in two strong rooms - 65 to 70 tonnes, worth millions of US dollars. The tusks were impounded to take them off the market in the hope of killing demand, but an illegal trade continues. Officials tell Hartley that the Chinese are behind the trade, in which ivory is smuggled to the Far East to be made into trinkets such as chopsticks.
The team crosses the border into Tanzania, which says it has a well-managed elephant population. They are investigating claims that the government has covered up the loss of 30,000 elephants in the Selous Game Reserve. They travel to the village of Mloka, which is at the centre of poaching in the reserve. One local involved in poaching tells Hartley that criminals in the capital Dar es Salaam organise expeditions of up to 30 armed poachers, who travel in military vehicles so that they are not stopped in roadblocks, and leave with up to 300 kilos at a time.
Most people were too scared to talk about the true scale of the problem. But one safari operator claims that the Tanzanian wildlife department is aware of what's happening and may even be turning a blind eye to the illegal trade. He also confirms allegations that buyers from China and the Far East are fuelling the trade.
Harley and Nott follow the smugglers' route to Dar es Salaam, where they secretly film a meeting with an ivory trader. He shows them samples and offers them as much ivory as they want, even up to an astonishing 1,000 kilos, worth over one million US dollars. The smuggler also alleges that Chinese embassy officials smuggle ivory out of the country in diplomatic bags that don't get checked. Then, astonishingly, he alleges that when President Hu Jintao came on a state visit to Tanzania in February 2009, his officials left with up to 200 kilos of illegal, smuggled ivory.
When approached by Unreported World, the Chinese Government said that they are against the illegal ivory trade and denied allegations that Chinese diplomats illegally purchased and exported ivory by misusing diplomatic immunity in 2009. Unreported World also sought an interview with the Tanzanian government to put the allegations to officials. They were granted an interview with the Acting Director of Wildlife, Obedi Mbangwa. However, he refused to comment. The government has subsequently told Unreported World that it will investigate the evidence gathered in the film.Watch now on 4oD
|Friday 26 March 2010||Channel 4|
|Monday 29 March 2010||8.30PM||More4|