CITES Standing Committee Day 2

Intervention made by Will Travers OBE (CEO Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA) on behalf of the Species Survival Network (SSN) at the Standing Committee meeting help in Geneva 23-27 July.

Thank you Mr Chairman,

SSN would like to thank the CITES Secretariat, those who have contributed to this report (on Elephant Conservation, Illegal Killing and the Ivory Trade) and the previous speakers. The information they have provided has pulled into sharp focus the crisis faced by elephants across much of their range.

We have heard about welcome contributions to the *AEF, the progress of the **AEAP, possible new high level meetings, reported improvements in enforcement, and a general desire to address the situation. We have also heard calls for new ideas in an attempt to stop and reverse current trends.

Mr Chairman, with due respect to all who are deeply involved in this life and death issue I believe that some of the decisions taken by CITES have contributed to the present crisis.

In a letter from the UK Minister responsible at that time, the UK and the EU’s support for the 2008 legal sale of ivory was made in the belief that this would go some way to satisfying demand and cause a subsequent decline in poaching. Since that time, as †ETIS, ‡MIKE and others confirm, illegal trade has dramatically increased, poaching is at record levels and the price of illegal raw ivory has reached new and devastating heights.

MIKE states that it cannot make a correlation between the 2008 legal sale with the current situation. That is not to say there is no such correlation and, from a commonsense perspective, I think most reasonable people will conclude that past decisions have indeed fuelled demand and the deadly consequences of increased demand.

Mr Chairman, political will clarifying that legal trade has perceived and actual negative consequences is a defining factor in this debate, for from political will flow a series of actions – better enforcement, improved protection, increased funding, public education, vitally important demand reduction, action on domestic ivory markets. Conversely, further discussions and actions that indicate the likelihood of future legal ivory trade – whether through one-off sales, annual quotas, whether from natural mortality or not – are likely to make matters even worse.

In conclusion Mr Chairman, in answer to the question what more can we do, we can stop selling ivory, we can stop buying ivory and we can stop speculating on the resumption of ivory trade. Let’s not send out mixed messages. Let’s have total clarity.

Thank you Mr Chairman

Video update pt 1

Video update pt 2

*African Elephant Fund
**African Elephant Action Plan
†Elephant Trade Information System – ie. ivory seizure monitoring system
‡Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants – ie. poaching monitoring system

For more info on elephants and the ivory trade visit

2 Responses to “CITES Standing Committee Day 2”

  1. Donna Mackenzie Says:

    Excellent speech Will. The only acceptable solution is for a worldwide absolute, total and complete ban on ivory trade of any kind, and the most serious penalties possible for anyone involved in the buying, selling and poaching of ivory.

    Good luck for the rest of the week.

  2. Mike Dooley Says:

    Well said Will.