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Chinese town at the centre of global ivory smuggling

请往下阅读此博客中文版 / Please scroll down for Chinese language version.



Exposed: The Chinese town at the centre of global ivory smuggling  

LONDON: An exhaustive investigation has revealed how criminal gangs originating from an obscure town in southern China have come to dominate the smuggling of illegal ivory tusks poached from African elephants.

Shuidong town is home to a network of ivory trafficking syndicates whose reach extends to East and West Africa, including the elephant poaching hotspots of Tanzania and Mozambique.

One syndicate member told undercover investigators that Shuidong is the destination for a staggering 80 per cent of all poached ivory smuggled into China from Africa.

A new report, The Shuidong Connection: Exposing the global hub of the illegal ivory trade, by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is the culmination of almost three years of painstaking undercover work during which investigators infiltrated one of the leading syndicates. This involved tracking a shipment of more than two tonnes of tusks from northern Mozambique to Shuidong, providing unique insights into the workings of an active ivory smuggling gang.

EIA first encountered the Shuidong smugglers in September 2014 while investigating the catastrophic poaching of elephants in Tanzania. In Zanzibar, the main gateway for shipments of tusks flowing out of Tanzania, EIA met with a sea cucumber trader from Shuidong who revealed that a community of his compatriots in Zanzibar was behind the smuggling, with a single group sending out 20 shipments to China in just one year.

They formed part of an international network of people from Shuidong supplying the booming Chinese market for sea cucumbers; with their knowledge of working in Africa and supply routes to China, their presence in strategic coastal towns and their business cover, the Shuidong traders in East and West Africa were ideally positioned to move into the illegal ivory trade.

In April 2016, EIA investigators travelled to Mozambique to ground-truth rumours that ivory traffickers were switching their focus from Tanzania as a result of improved enforcement efforts and prosecutions. In the port town of Pemba, they encountered a group of three Chinese nationals who were conspicuous because of their unique dialect – they were all from Shuidong.

Posing as potential ivory traders and logistics specialists, the investigators gradually gained the trust of the syndicate partners; over the course of more than a year and through multiple meetings, they were able to piece together a detailed picture of the enormous scale and nature scale of the operations, which involves:

  • engagement of trusted Africa-based fixers to consolidate shipments of poached ivory in secure locations;
  • key Chinese syndicate players travelling to Africa to inspect tusks for quality and, subsequently, to African ports to remotely observe loading onto vessels;
  • bribing key customs and border enforcement personnel as well as freight agents;
  • concealing tusks in innocuous-looking shipments of plastic pellets;
  • using historically secure smuggling routes dotted with accomplices at every stage, known as ‘owning the road’;
    • obscuring the origin of shipping containers of ivory by sending them to be reloaded in transit countries such as South Korea;
  • the ability to swiftly diversify into other illegal wildlife products such as pangolin scales, totoaba fish maw and rhino horn as demand and supplies varied
  • continuously re-investing criminal profits into new ivory and other wildlife shipments.

Despite the Chinese Government’s laudable decision to close its domestic ivory market, leading to a fall in price for ivory tusks in the country, the smuggling group was still active as of late June 2017, extending its operations to West Africa to source lucrative tusks poached from forest elephants.

Mary Rice, EIA Executive Director, said: “The Chinese Government’s decision to shut its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017 is an admirable response to mounting international pressure to end the industrial-scale slaughter of Africa’s elephants.  What EIA discovered in Shuidong, however, clearly shows transnational criminal networks are operating with near-total impunity. It is vital that enforcement agencies in Africa and China put these criminals out of business immediately.”

Julian Newman, EIA Campaigns Director, added: “EIA has shared, in confidence, the detailed intelligence unearthed during the course of the Shuidong investigation with relevant Government departments and enforcement agencies and looks to them to use it. Action is needed to end this huge criminal enterprise which is devastating Africa’s elephant populations.”


Interviews are available on request; please contact:

  • Mary Rice, EIA Executive Director, via maryrice[at] or telephone +44 20 7354 7960
  • Julian Newman, EIA Campaigns Director, via juliannewman[at] or telephone +44 20 7354 7960



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
  2. Read & download The Shuidong Connection: Exposing the global hub of the illegal ivory trade at


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960








英国伦敦非政府组织环境调查署(EIA)新发布的报告《揭密中国水东:鲜为人知的非洲象牙走私基地》是用了接近三年的时间深入调查的成果。在这三年里,EIA调查员混进了最主要的犯罪团伙之一,跟踪一批重2吨多的象牙从莫桑比克到水东的全部走私路线,最终得以深入了解一个长期活跃的极隐蔽的象牙走私团伙的运作模式 。





  • 雇佣可以信任的、在非洲本地的疏通者,将多批取自偷猎大象的象牙收藏到安全地点
  • 然后犯罪团伙的关键中国成员前往非洲查验收购的象牙质量,然后去非洲港口,从远处高点观察货物装箱直到上货船
  • 贿赂关键的海关及边境执法官员以及货运代理
  • 将象牙藏在看似合法的塑料颗粒货品中
  • 利用一直以来有保障的走私路线进行走私,并且在每个阶段都有同伙的监督
  • 在中转站国家例如韩国,重新调换原本装有象牙的集装箱,从而隐藏货物真正的来源地
  • 随着市场价格的波动,团伙可以相应的走私其他野生动物制品,例如穿山甲片、金钱胶和犀牛角,速度惊人
  • 将走私所得的利润不断重新投资到新一轮的象牙和其他野生动物的收购及走私


EIA执行董事Mary Rice表示:“中国政府决定在2017年底前终止国内象牙贸易是对巨大的国际压力给予令人钦佩的回应以结束规模庞大的非洲大象屠杀行为。不过,EIA在水东的发现却明确显示跨国犯罪网络持续在从事非法行为,而且可以逍遥法外。非洲和中国的执法机构立即阻止这些非法行为是极其重要的。”

EIA项目负责人Julian Newman说:“EIA已经将在调查水东的过程中得到的资料给予给有关政府部门和执法机构,并期望他们利用这些资料帮助执法。为了终止这些正在毁灭非洲象种群的犯罪罪行,必须刻不容缓的采取行动。”





  1. 环境调查署(EIA)是一家位于英国以及美国华盛顿的非政府组织,致力于调查和反对各种环境犯罪,包括非法野生动物交易、非法砍伐、危险废弃物及其贸易、改变气候和臭氧层的化学品的交易、鲸目动物的虐待以及海相塑料污染。
  2. 阅读和下载《揭密中国水东:鲜为人知的非洲象牙走私基地》:


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
电话:+44 207 354 7960