A new report by Dr Sam Wasser, Washington University, USA, describes current levels of illegal ivory poaching as “devastating”. This backs up Born Free’s own record-keeping which was published late last year (2006) indicating that since the last CITES Conference in November 2004, approximately 30 tonnes of ivory has been seized. If this represents 10% of the real total being smuggled, 250 tonnes could have been illegally traded or up to 40,000 elephants could have been poached in the last two years. These figures are shocking. What is more shocking is that Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia have all put in proposals to the next CITES Conference (COP14 June 2007) to seek permission to relax the ivory trade ban still further and allow for massive renewed trading. How can this be? Only a week or so ago reports from Tchad spoke of hundreds of elephants being killed and rangers shot in the line of duty.
I am preparing a Born Free team to go to the CITES meeting in June to fight these dangerous proposals. We will be part of the Species Survival Network (SSN) delegation that will not only focus on elephants but on other threatened species. For example, at least two countries are seeking increased leopard trophy hunting quotas, the USA wants to remove the American bobcat from CITES all together and Brazil wants to reduce protection for the black caiman. On the other hand thankfully, Germany and the European Union want to improve protection for a number of shark species.
But back to elephants. It looks like we are going to need all the support and help we can get to make sure that CITES does not increase the threat to the very species the Convention is supposed to protect from trade.
Please keep checking the website and if you would like to support our mission to The Hague this June then any contributions would be gratefully received.
Well done to Dr Wasser and his team. Their DNA sampling will at least allow us to determine where the huge quantities of smuggled ivory originate from and target our meagre conservation resources to those beleaguered elephant populations.