26 August 2011
Enormous ivory haul reveals shocking levels of elephant poaching in Africa.
Leading conservationists were left stunned by news from Tanzania that 1,041 elephant tusks have been seized by authorities in an operation at the port of Zanzibar on 24th August 2011. The elephant tusks had been hidden among sacks of dried fish, in a shipment reportedly destined for Malaysia.
"Just imagine discovering the remains of at least 521 dead elephants in a single haul" said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation. "This news has truly numbed us all to the core, and made us even more determined to redouble our efforts in the fight against elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Many experts believe the battle for elephants must not only be fought in the forests or on the savannahs of Africa, or even in the ivory markets of the Far East, but in the corridors of power at CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Africa’s elephants need action – and they need it now."
The elephant battles at CITES are truly something to behold. Elephant and ivory trade discussions are possibly the most divisive and contentious issues discussed by the 175 countries that have signed the treaty. Although a complete ban on trade in ivory was approved in 1989 (following a decade of bloodshed when 700,000 elephants were slaughtered), since then there have been numerous concerted efforts to re-open legal trade, and two legal ‘one-off sales’ of ivory approved by CITES.
The fall-out for elephants has been devastating. Poaching levels are rising (a recent report by the EU-funded Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants Programme (MIKE) reveals a deeply worrying upward trend in poaching across East, Southern and Central Africa); seizures of illegal ivory this year alone run into tens of thousands of kilos; and the price of illegal raw ivory in the Far East has risen exponentially.
China is now recognised by CITES as the single biggest consumer of illicit ivory, and with the growth in disposable income of Chinese citizens, many believe the demand will keep on rising.
“There are not enough elephants left on this planet to meet Asian demand for ivory,” Shelley Waterland, Born Free's wildlife trade expert, claimed. "Enforcement efforts are essential, but so is reducing demand. A complete ban on any trade in ivory whatsoever must be the only way forward if we are to have any hope of saving elephants across their current range. Many fragile populations will simply not survive for very much longer if this level of threat continues unabated.”
Born Free is calling for the following steps to be taken as a matter of urgency: