The annual trade in endangered animals worldwide is estimated to be worth 20 billion dollars, trailing only guns and drugs on the illegal market.
A report released this week by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) graded countries on how well they enforce anti-poaching and trafficking laws. Yunnan neighbors Laos and Vietnam were singled out as two of the three worst countries in the world when measured by WWF standards.
Perhaps surprisingly, China was given high marks in two of the three categories that comprised the grades. Despite being the leading worldwide destination for illegal animal parts, China scored highly for enacting increasingly stringent laws against the trade in endangered animals.
Yunnan however, still remains a major gateway for illegal shipments of endangered animals largely because it shares borders with Laos and Vietnam. The WWF report stated that "Laos is recognized as both a source and transit country while Viet Nam [sic] is a transit hub for illegal wildlife trade."
Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong provinces receive almost 70 percent of all illegal animal shipments coming into China, according to a report by CNN.
The WWF report focused specifically on the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns and tiger skins, bones and organs. Poaching of those three animals is rising and has led many countries to suggest the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has failed.
The convention went into effect in 1989 and has been signed by 175 countries. This week at a United Nations (UN) conference in Geneva, a CITES commission suggested trade in ivory should be legalized once again. The issue is currently under debate by UN delegates.
Confusing the issue of poaching is the thriving business in some countries of farming endangered animals. Tiger farms in China, Thailand and Laos insure that ingredients for many Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies, as well as pelts, are available outside of international law.
Earlier this month 3,600 farm-raised endangered crocodiles where seized by police in Guangxi en route from Vietnam to Guangdong. Critics of "exotic farms" say they do nothing but encourage buyers who cannot differentiate between wild and farm-raised animals.
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