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Rhinoceros horns in trade on the Myanmar–China border

  • Chris R. Shepherd (a1), Thomas N.E. Gray (a2) and Vincent Nijman (a3)

The illegal trade in rhinoceros horn, driven largely by the demand from East and South-east Asia, is a major impediment to the conservation of rhinoceroses globally. We surveyed the town of Mong La, in eastern Myanmar on the border with China, for the presence of rhinoceros horn. No rhinoceros horn was observed in 2006 or 2009, and other African wildlife was rare or absent. During visits in 2014 and 2015 we observed two horns, presumed to be of the white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum, and one horn tip, small discs from the horn core, horn powder and horn bangles. Shops selling rhinoceros horn all specialized in high-end and high-value wildlife, mostly for decorative purposes, including whole elephant tusks, carved elephant ivory, carved hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius canines, and tiger Panthera tigris skins. Organized criminal syndicates are involved in the wildlife trade between Myanmar and Africa, possibly via China. Mong La's geographical position on the border with China, limited control by the central Myanmar Government, and the presence of the Chinese entertainment industry provide ideal conditions for a global wildlife trade hub catering for the Chinese market. Solutions require more intense collaboration between the Myanmar and Chinese authorities to curb the trade in African rhinoceros horn in this part of Asia.

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Currently at: Wildlife Alliance, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
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