REGULATED TRADE OF RHINO HORN WILL NOT STOP POACHING AND TRAFFICKING AS LONG AS POWERFUL SYNDICATES OPERATE ABOVE THE LAW
There are many powerful Syndicates and Triads operating in Africa and Asia that take advantage of the weak wildlife laws and high levels of corruption. They trade endangered species products that are trafficked from Africa, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to supply ever growing demand in insatiable markets across Asia.
Lawless hubs, where illegal wildlife trade is carried out openly, such as the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, allow illegal trade of endangered species to continue unchecked. Casino based towns, set up on the borders of China (to cater to Chinese visitors and traders) by the Kings Roman Group (with investment from Governments and reportedly, Drug Cartels), act as conduits for illegal trade. In these towns (eg. Boten and Ton Pheung in Laos; Mong La and Tachileik in Myanmar), a blind eye is turned to the trade of endangered species products such as tiger skins, tiger wine, rhino horn, pangolin scales and meat and poached ivory. In fact, the markets are always heaving with illegal wildlife products being sold openly in these centres. As demand increases new centres open.
International/trans-national organised crime is estimated to generate US$1.3 trillion per annum. Illegal Wildlife Trade is estimated to contribute US$17 billion and Environmental Crime as a whole, between US$72-213 billion as estimated by Interpol. These Criminal Syndicates deal in so many commodities that they are able to stockpile and withhold products and – in the case of rhino horn – bank on extinction in the wild to increase the value of poached wild rhino horn. Rhino horn is now one of the most valuable commodities on earth – and wild rhino horn is even more highly valued than farmed rhino horn. There is no reason why these powerful Syndicates and Triads would walk away from such a highly profitable market when the product (rhino horn) can be obtained and trafficked so easily through bribery and corruption. The sooner rhinos become extinct in the wild – across their range – the more valuable wild rhino horn stockpiles will become.The Chinese Triads of Hong Kong are moving into mainland China in a big way. They are now established in most major countries too – including South Africa. There are believed to be about 50 Triads based in Hong Kong alone. Their membership, many years ago, was approximately 300,000. Today who knows?
The most powerful of the Hong Kong triads are:
- Sun Yee On
- Tai Huen Chai
- Wo Shing Wo
- Shui Fong
- Wo Hop To (prominent in Australia)
- Luen Group
- Rung Group
- Tung Group
- Chuen Group
- Shing Group
Then there are the big Triads based in foreign countries:
- Bamboo Union, Taiwan
- Four Seas Gang, Taiwan
- Lo Fu-chu, Taiwan
- Sio Sam Ong, Malasia
- Ang Soon Tong, Singapore
- Wah Kee, Singapore
- Salakau, Singapore
- Ghee Hin Kongsi, Singapore
- Wah Ching, San Fransisco
- Black Dragons, Los Angeles
- Flying Dragons, New York City
- Ah Kong, Amsterdam
- Black Jade, Texas
And this is just the Triads. Then there are the Tongs (expat Chinese Gangs), various Italian and Russian Mafia, the Eastern European Block Syndicates, the Middle Eastern Syndicates, the Xaysavang Syndicate (Vixay Keosavang seemingly untouchable!) and the African Syndicates and Terrorist Groups: Lords Resistance Army, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Mungiki, poaching ringleader Boniface Matthew Mariango (arrested), Janjaweed, etc.
With such sophisticated and powerful International and local Syndicates, Triads, Warlords and Gangs operating, regulated trade of rhino horn would be impossible to control. The black market in firearms, diamonds, oil and cigarettes has never been closed down. In Triad raids in Hong Kong, police seized $76 million worth of black market cigarettes.
It would be far faster and easier to eliminate all demand for rhino horn than it would be to try to close down the Trafficking Syndicates and Triads or to stop Warlords and Gangs operating. If all talk of trade ended, and there was global backing for programs such as RRP and Demand Reduction Campaigns, people could easily be persuaded to stop using and buying rhino horn – a bogus product that costs a fortune and has no power to heal or bestow good fortune on the owner.