pMarch 1, 2013/p
pemstrongThe New York Times/strong/em/p
pPUZHAI, China – Chinese investors have anointed it “white gold.” Carvers and collectors prefer the term “organic gemstone.” Smugglers, however, use a gruesomely straightforward name for the recently harvested African elephant tusks that find their way to this remote trading outpost on the Vietnamese border./p
p”We call them bloody teeth,” said Xing, a furniture maker and ivory trafficker who is part of a shadowy trade that has revived calls for a total international ban on ivory sales./p
pTo the outrage of conservation groups trying to stop the slaughter of African elephants and the embarrassment of Chinese law enforcement agencies, Xing’s thriving ivory business is just one drop in a trail of blood that stretches from Africa, by air, sea and highway, to Chinese showrooms and private collections./p
p”The Chinese hold the key to the elephants’ future,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. “If things continue the way they are, many countries could lose their elephants altogether.”/p
pCritics say the Chinese government is not doing enough to stem the illicit ivory trade, which has exploded in the five years since conservationists and governments agreed to a program of limited ivory sales intended to stifle poaching and revive a centuries-old handicraft. Since the beginning of 2012, more than 32,000 elephants have been illegally killed, according to the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife organization, and conservationists say the majority of ivory sold in China, which sells for more than $1,300 a pound on the black market, is of questionable origin./p
pLegalized ivory sales have been a boon to carvers and brokers, who have helped fuel the demand for ever greater supplies. But those who investigate the trade in China say the skyrocketing sales – and the incentive for poaching – can be tied to a combination of incompetence by law enforcement and official corruption, especially by the military./p
pThe only way to save the African elephant, conservationists say, is to outlaw the sale of ivory entirely./p
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