Ivory Trade Approved for China

Below is the Born Free Foundation press release on this issue. More to follow later:



It’s crunch time for elephants (again!)

The decision by the Standing Committee of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) to approve China as a ‘trading partner’ for over 100 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe has left many conservationists and wildlife managers stunned and appalled.

“Unbelievable, naïve and deadly.” Stated Will Travers CEO of the Born Free Foundation, a member of the Species Survival Network. “It was bad enough when Japan was approved as a trading partner more than a year ago but approving China is, in my view, like pouring petrol on an open fire.”

The reasons why China should not have been approved are numerous:

  • The lack of comprehensive internal law enforcement and trade controls
  • The steady stream of illegal ivory shipments destined for China.
  • The increasing involvement of Chinese nationals based in Africa in ivory trafficking
  • The continued high levels of elephant poaching (estimated to be running at between 20,000 and 25,000 animals a year)
  • The rising price of ivory (poached Sumatran ivory tusks have reportedly increased in value by 300% since 2005)
  • The fragile nature of most African elephant populations (only half a dozen or so African countries have robust and significant elephant herds out of a total of 36 countries that are home to the species)

“Now, in addition to all these challenges and threats, we are faced with the prospect of China and Japan bidding against each other for the ivory stockpiles, driving up the price and heightening still further the incentive to poach and smuggle ivory” said Mr Travers, speaking from Geneva where the Standing Committee of CITES is convened.

Born Free and the SSN have comprehensive records relating to massive and entrenched levels of elephant poaching over the last 10 years. Together with other conservation groups, Born Free has consistently argued against any relaxation in the original ivory trade ban approved by CITES in 1989 following a decade when Africa’s elephant population fell by more than 50% from 1.3 million to 600,000. Today, elephant numbers are estimated to hover at around 475,000 – 500,000. Asian elephant numbers stand at a precarious 30,000-40,000.

The role of the United Kingdom and the EU has been subjected to significant criticism throughout this process.

“Overwhelmingly the UK public are opposed to any ivory trade but the UK government has steadfastly refused to take a principled lead on this issue, using the notion of EU unity as an excuse for lack of independent action. The UK has also continued to state that it supports sustainable utilisation of wildlife species, including the killing of species such as elephants.” Commented Shelley Waterland, International Trade Specialist with Born Free. “Quite clearly, today’s decision will encourage poachers, traders and traffickers and may well sound the final death knell for small, vulnerable elephant populations in West and Central African countries.”

It will also be shocking to many conservationists to learn that the decision to approve China as a trading partner was supported by WWF amongst others.

The illegal black market in ‘white gold’ seems set to cause parts of Africa to run red with elephant blood once more.

For some elephants E may well be for Extinction.

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