BEIJING, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Chinese officials were reportedly involved in the illegal purchase of elephant ivory during a presidential delegation trip to Tanzania last year.
A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency quoted two local ivory traders who claimed the Chinese delegates sought to buy ivory in such significant quantity that the prices doubled to $700 per kilo.
One of the traders, Suleiman Mochiwa, reportedly told an EIA undercover investigator "The price was very high because the demand was high. When the guest come, the whole delegation, that's then time when the business goes up." A second trader relayed the same account.
EIA concluded that "Tanzania's elephants continue to be poached to supply a growing demand in an unregulated illegal ivory market, predominantly in China."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded to the report Thursday, calling the accusations baseless and noting that Beijing was "strongly dissatisfied" with EIA's report. "We attach importance to the protection of wild animals like elephants. We have been cooperating with other countries in this area."