Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

CITES rejects ivory trade proposals, but EU intransigence blocks efforts to maximise elephant protection

3 October 2016

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News, Wildlife Trade News

Attempts by Zimbabwe and Namibia to secure international support enabling them to sell their ivory stockpiles to international buyers were soundly rejected by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg.

The proposals, which would have removed restrictions associated with the CITES Appendix II listing of Zimbabwe and Namibia’s elephant populations that currently prevent them selling their ivory, would have required the support of a two thirds majority of the governments present at the meeting. In the event, they barely achieved a third of the votes needed and were defeated by a big majority of the Governments represented at the meeting.

However, a proposal put forward by members of the African Elephant Coalition, whose 29 members make up the majority of elephant range States, with the support of Sri Lanka, to transfer the elephant populations in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe back onto CITES Appendix I where they would join the rest of Africa’s elephants, failed because the European Union voted against.

Born Free’s President and CEO Will Travers OBE said: “The good news is CITES has maintained its fragile ban on international ivory trade, for now. However, it failed to grasp the opportunity to draw a line under international ivory trade by returning all of Africa’s elephants to Appendix I. The failure of the European Union to support the proposal from the majority of Africa’s elephant range States was a disgrace and totally out of touch with the wishes of EU citizens. It was also out of step with much of the world, including big markets for ivory such as China, Hong Kong and the USA, which now agree that only a total ban on ivory trade can secure a future for elephants. Placing all elephant populations back on CITES Appendix I would have sent a clear message that ivory belongs to elephants and is not for sale. The European Union’s failure to understand this is unforgivable.” 

In a most welcome and unexpected move, Botswana's Environment Minister, The Honourable Tsekedi Kharma announced that regardless of the CITES vote, his country would voluntarily treat its elephant populations, by far the biggest in Africa, as being on Appendix 1 thus removing the possibility of any moves to trade Ivory from Botswana for the foreseeable future.

The triennial CITES meeting has agreed a number of additional measures aimed at protecting elephants, including recommending that Parties shut down their domestic markets for ivory when they contribute to poaching or illegal trade, ending a ten year debate about what a future Ivory trade might look like; and encouraging Parties to dispose of their Ivory stockpiles.

Born Free will continue to work with governments, partner non-government organisations and other stakeholders to secure the future of elephants across the African continent.

Support Born Free's work at CITES here

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