Take the ‘trade’ out of the ivory trade
Dear Friends of Wildlife,
What are we to make of the recent sale of nearly 1 tonne of African ivory tusks at an auction in Cannes in the South of France, all of which were purchased by Chinese buyers for the Chinese market?
To be clear, this sale was legal in as much as the tusks were all certified as being ‘pre-Convention’. In other words, they were legally acquired before the African elephant was listed on the Appendices of CITES (1976).
However, just because it is legal doesn’t make it right. Without question, in my view, any commercial sales of ivory – pre-Convention or antique – continue to stimulate a rapacious demand that cannot be met through legal sales and so is fuelled through illegal poached ivory and the bloody slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year across Africa.
We have to grow up. We have to be more responsible. Simply offering a donation of 5,000 Euros from the commission on the recent sale to an unspecified anti-poaching organisation (as the auctioneers proudly proclaimed) does nothing for me and, more importantly, will do little for elephants compared to the damage that has been done by having the sale in the first place.
At the recent CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva, even the Chinese delegation expressed concern about sales of pre-Convention ivory. No, they did not go as far as to suggest that such sales should be prohibited but they did acknowledge the rapidly growing volume of pre-Convention ivory reaching China and I think the sub-text is that we are now all aware of the implications such sales have for Africa’s remaining elephants.
We need a four-point action plan:
1. Destroy or put beyond commercial use ivory stocks – legal or illegal.
2. Dramatically increase our support for rangers and wildlife law enforcement officers in elephant range States through the African Elephant Action Plan.
4. If there are carvings that internationally-recognised art historians agree should be kept for historic or artistic purposes then they should be displayed in museums to act as a warning and help tell the story of the elephant tragedy that has unfolded over the last 50 years on our watch.
Without such a plan we shall simply see an ongoing decline in elephant numbers, extinction in numerous countries and all for what …