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For Immediate Release: 07/19/11

Bonfire of the Vanities

Ivory to Go Up in Smoke: Elephant Poaching Escalates

Manyani, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya — In an effort to draw the world’s attention to the impact of poaching on Africa’s elephants, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force will host the burning of 5 tons of seized ivory in Tsavo National Park on Wednesday (July 20, 2011).

The ivory, which originated in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, was confiscated during a notorious 2002 seizure in Singapore.

Will Travers, chief executive officer of Born Free USA, explained the importance of the ivory burn: "Reports of elephant poaching and ivory seizures are becoming an almost a daily occurrence. The bloody, corrupt and merciless ivory trade that precipitated the slaughter of 600,000 African elephants during the 1970s and 1980s is sadly booming across Africa again.”

Data collated by Born Free reveals that in the past six months more than 10,500 kilos of ivory have been seized by customs and police officials. That represents the last mortal remains of more than 1,700 elephants. Seizures have been made in Thailand, Vietnam, Mozambique, China, Kenya and Portugal. One seizure in Guangxi Province, China in April 2011, for instance, included 707 elephant tusks, 32 ivory bracelets and a rhino horn.

Shelley Waterland, wildlife trade specialist with the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, has flown from England to Kenya to witness the ivory burn first-hand, along with co-hosts the Kenya Wildlife Service. Waterland declared: “Let the fire shine a spotlight on this growing crisis and motivate us to take action against the bloody ivory trade — no more sales of stockpiled ivory, no more tusks sold for a staggering $1,500 a kilo, no more rangers and wardens killed by poachers trying to protect wild elephants, no more ivory orphans.”

She continued: “The last major ivory burn in Kenya marked the beginning of the ivory trade ban (in 1989). Poaching is now so bad because that life-saving ban has been eroded by ‘one-off’ sales and the development of trading mechanisms, both of which send entirely the wrong message to poaching networks and the organized crime syndicates that operate them. Having consulted with many range states, my message from Kenya is clear: The ivory ban must be reinstated in full and we must increase our wildlife law-enforcement effort.”

The global trade in elephant ivory is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and is monitored specifically by its Standing Committee.

Travers concluded: “Born Free is calling on the U.K. and other members of the CITES Standing Committee to withdraw ‘approved ivory trading nation’ status from China and Japan and to re-impose a full global ivory trade ban. Only then will the message be clear, will the poachers realize they have nowhere to hide, will the enforcement agencies and customs authorities be able to act with certainty … and will the world’s wild elephants stand a fighting chance.”

The Standing Committee next meets in Geneva Aug. 15-19.

With an estimated 35,000 elephants a year killed for their ivory, and between 400,000 and 500,000 elephants left across the African continent, Born Free has declared the situation critical and is concerned that without immediate and resolute action, elephants face a bleak future.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to some 500 primates, many of them rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film "Born Free," along with their son Will Travers, now CEO of both organizations.

Born Free USA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at: www.bornfreeusa.org; twitter http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, 203/270-8929

Editor’s Notes

An international ivory trade ban was agreed by the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October 1989. However, since that time two ‘one-off’ sales of stockpiled ivory from Southern Africa to Japan (over 50 tons in 1999 sold for approximately $60 per kilo) and, more recently China and Japan (over 100 tons in 2008 sold for approximately $150 per kilo), have taken place. The price of illegal raw ivory is estimated to be in excess of $1,500 per kilo.

Despite warnings from leading conservationists, the CITES Standing Committee approved China as an ivory trading nation in 2008.

China features heavily in the ivory trade today. That is where demand for ivory is greatest, driven by a booming and increasingly wealthy middle class. As more than a million Chinese nationals expand their footprint across the African Continent, building roads, mining, and carrying out timber extraction, they are widely implicated in ivory profiteering. The Kenya Wildlife Service regularly reports the involvement of Chinese nationals in ivory seizures.

Born Free is a longstanding supporter of wildlife law enforcement in a number of East, Central and West African countries, helping bring poachers to justice and making sure that wildlife laws and international Treaty obligations, that are intended to protect elephants, are fully and effectively enforced.

The majority of Africa's elephant range States agree that legalizing any future ivory trade would be a huge mistake. The 23 members of the African Elephant Coalition (which includes countries as diverse as Mali, Rwanda, Nigeria, Chad, Kenya and Ethiopia) are resolute in their rejection of trade and convinced of the need to prioritize field conservation, security, law enforcement and conflict resolution above all else. Many of these objectives are enshrined in the newly approved African Elephant Action Plan, endorsed by every single one of the 37 African countries with wild elephants.

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