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[AUDIO] China’s appetite for abalone spurs organized crime in South Africa

[AUDIO] China’s appetite for abalone spurs organized crime in South Africa

The demand for abalone is so extreme that it is commonly-referred to as “white gold” and is now the world’s most valuable shellfish. Much of that demand comes from Asia, especially China, where consumers can’t seem to get enough of the fleshy snails in restaurants and supermarkets.
South Africa is home to one of the most prized species of abalone, fueling widespread illegal poaching by organized crime syndicates who are eager to satisfy the seemingly Chinese diners’ seemingly insatiable appetite. “Since 2001 an estimated 75 million abalone—40,000 tons—have been plucked from South African waters, about 10 times the legal quota,” according to a National Geographic reportthat warned South African abalone risks being poached to extinction.
Now, there is evidence that the illegal abalone trade is also propelling the rise of other contraband sales by organized crime operations in South Africa. “Dried abalone … forms the nucleus of a criminal economy worth millions each year in South Africa‚ with documented links to money laundering and the drug trade,” said Cape Town-based investigative journalist Kimon de Greef in a recent report. Specifically, he discovered that the abalone traders are now expanding into the increasingly lucrative donkey skin trade where the hides are sold to Chinese buyers to be used for a traditional Chinese remedy known as ejiao.
Kimon joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the broader environmental and security implications of the burgeoning illegal abalone trade between South Africa and China.
Shownotes:

About Kimon de Greef:

Kimon de Greef is a freelance journalist from Cape Town, South Africa. Among other issues he writes about environmental crime, informal trades, immigration, and conflict over natural resources.

He has published features with Al Jazeera, Roads & Kingdoms, Vice, GOOD, Hakai, The Mail & Guardian, and GroundUp News. He has also worked as a criminological consultant, investigating wildlife trafficking and drug markets.

He holds a Master’s in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town and is currently writing a book on illicit trades.

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About Eric Olander

Eric Olander is the founder and Editor in Chief of The China Africa Project. Eric is a veteran international journalist with 20+ years experience throughout Greater China, Africa, the United States and Europe. Eric is currently based in Southeast Asia where he is the senior news executive with a leading 24-hour all business news cable TV network.