Ms Wrobel said: “It seems the beads are jewellery, but these traders start by asking what your ailment is. Then they will say, ‘Well, these beads are perfect for that’. They’re deliberately trying to create a new market for poached animals.
“It could be disastrous. With China banning ivory, more traders are going to think, ‘Why don’t we sell skin instead?’ We need to stop this before demand for beads really takes hold.” Charities are working with the Myanmar government to deploy anti-poaching teams, fit tracking collars to elephants and crack down on illegal wildlife markets.
With a populace of 1.4 billion people, a Chinese obsession could kill off the world’s elephants within years.
If demand increases, African elephants could be next. Vietnam and Thailand have previously been uncovered as hubs for traffickers moving endangered animal products out of Africa.
John said: “We have to target the demand for elephant skin. If we fail, the consequences will be catastrophic.”
Huge threat to gentle giants
- In 1997 there were some 10,000 Asian elephants in Myanmar. It is feared there are now just 1,400 and the skin trade boom could kill them off in two years.
- There are about 30,000 to 40,000 Asian elephants left, down from about 100,000 in 1900. They are endangered.
- Some 350,000 African elephants, left, remain in the wild – a 97% decline from the estimated
12 million in 1900.
- The ivory trade was expelled in 1990, yet this and antique ivory has still been booming.
- Last year’s Great Elephant Census found 144,000 African elephants killed for ivory in the past decade. The animals are also slain for meat and body parts.