Born Free USA Blog
So far, discussions about elephants at the two-week CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting in Bangkok have centered around the current poaching crises hitting many African populations. It’s been announced, for example, that more than half of elephants’ deaths are due to poaching, and that poaching outpaces births.
Nevertheless, incredibly, some have discussed establishing mechanisms to reopen legal ivory trade.
Echoing around the halls and corridors for more than a week has been the issue of demand for ivory in the Far East. There is widespread acknowledgement that this insatiable appetite is indeed driving the killing and that significant efforts are directed at reducing demand. Together with many other organizations and delegates, Born Free USA believes that even with the best law enforcement in the world, unless demand can be dramatically curtailed, the price per kilogram and the relatively low risk of apprehension will continue to mean that tens of thousands of elephants will be victims of human vanity.
So how did delegates representing key consumer countries react in Bangkok this past week? A Chinese delegate bemoaned the attention CITES analysis was giving to Asian destination countries and asked fellow delegates to focus less on the demand side of the equation and instead consider the anti-poaching capacity of countries that were losing their elephants.
Earlier in the week at the CITES meeting’s opening ceremony, Thailand's prime minister had vaguely referred to looking into instituting a ban on the sale of ivory within the country. The belief is that this statement was simply a means of sidestepping the political heat while there was so much focus on the issue.
China and Thailand, in other words, are not taking the initiative to solve this global problem.
Even raising the subject of a resumption in international legal ivory trade at such a critical time puts elephants’ lives at risk, and confuses as well as further stimulates the market with the prospect of more ivory in trade.
Meanwhile, a study released last week shows that Central Africa has lost more than 60 percent of its forest elephants over the past 10 years. At the moment, elephants live in 38 countries, but should the current poaching frenzy continue or worsen, how many countries will be range states by the time CITES meets again?
As a Tanzanian delegate put it, “Perhaps this convention will continue monitoring the killing until there is nothing left to monitor.” Born Free will continue to do its utmost at and between CITES meetings to ensure that this prediction does not come true.
Thankfully, just yesterday, the CITES Parties took some sound decisions that give me home – stalling discussion of a decision-making mechanism for reopening ivory trade and confirming a commitment to a continent-wide elephant action plan.
Our sights are already set on the next COP in two and a half years’ time ...