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For Immediate Release: 06/27/12

Gabon's Ivory Will Go Up in Smoke

Born Free Says Illegal Trading In Elephant Ivory Will No Longer Be Tolerated

In a dramatic statement of principle, the Central African nation of Gabon today will burn its 4.8-ton elephant ivory stockpile — a move which has been widely applauded by the international conservation community.

The Born Free Foundation believes this landmark gesture by Gabon sends a clear and unambiguous message to the criminal networks involved in international wildlife crime: that illegal trading in elephant ivory will no longer be tolerated.

“This is a momentous day for Gabon and speaks volumes about the seriousness of the elephant poaching situation today,” said Will Travers OBE, chief executive officer of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation. “I hope that Gabon's decisive action will alert consumers of ivory in China, decision-makers in Brussels, and those who believe the ivory trade should be legalized, to the hard truth — that demand is wiping out Africa's elephants."

Wildlife trade analysts described 2011 as an “annus horribilis” (horrible year) for the African elephant and many experts now believe poaching stands at its highest level in 20 years. Last week, a report submitted to CITES (the 175 nations that have ratified the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) identified China as the primary destination for this illicit trade.

Ian Redmond OBE, wildlife consultant to the Born Free Foundation, said, "Gabon's ivory bonfire — a true bonfire of the vanities, given the uses to which ivory is put — sends a clear signal to the world: The ivory trade must end. Why is this so important? Because the elephant is not only an icon of African wildlife and culture. They are also widely viewed as a super-keystone species or ‘mega-gardeners of the forest.’ Their role as seed dispersal agents and landscape gardeners is critical to the health of their forest, and their forests are in turn critical to global climate stability."

European Union member states, including the United Kingdom, have previously misguidedly supported ivory trade to China, fuelling the current poaching epidemic. Born Free is calling on the EU to listen to the voice of Africa, to support Gabon in its efforts and condemn illegal trade in ivory.

"The EU has an opportunity to denounce China's involvement in the illegal trade in ivory at a CITES meeting this July" Travers said. "It's essential that, given China's insatiable appetite for ivory, its 'ivory trading nation' status be revoked and that the UK and those responsible for disastrous past decisions contribute to the African Elephant Fund, designed specifically to support the priority elephant conservation actions identified by every single African country where wild elephants roam wild and free."

Read more details about the ivory trade and the Kenya ivory burn in 2011.

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 brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-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 chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’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; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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

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