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For Immediate Release: 07/15/08

Elephants At Risk Again

United Nations Panel Paves the Way for Elephant Poaching and Ivory Laundering

Geneva — The illegal black market in “white gold” seems ready to cause parts of Africa to run red with elephant blood once more after today’s decision by the Standing Committee of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to approve China as a “trading partner” for more than 100 tons of stockpiled ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Many conservationists and wildlife managers have been left stunned and appalled.

“Unbelievable, naïve and deadly,” stated Will Travers, CEO of Born Free USA and president of the Species Survival Network (SSN), who is attending the Geneva meeting. “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 gas on an open fire.”

China remains a major destination for ivory from poached elephants and today’s decision is likely to facilitate laundering of illegal ivory into the Chinese market. Meanwhile, according to the SSN, most of China’s 20 largest cities have not been surveyed for availability of ivory and the effectiveness of government controls.

“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,” added Mr. Travers.

Born Free USA and SSN have comprehensive records relating to massive and entrenched levels of elephant poaching over the last 10 years. Together with other conservation groups, SSN 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.

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. For more information, visit www.bornfreeusa.org.

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Contact:
Will Travers, Born Free USA (in Geneva), 07774891926

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