CITES 2013 Spotlight: Illegal Ivory Trade Offenders
In view of the upcoming Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) next month, WWF and TRAFFIC are pushing for stronger trade restrictions against illegal ivory offenders.
According to WWF, illegal ivory trade causes 30,000 African elephant deaths every year, fuelled by the demand in destination countries. The host of the upcoming CITES convention itself, Thailand, is one of the countries which have failed to take action against illegal ivory trade markets in its territory. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) are also pinpointed as illegal ivory trade hotspots.
Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, says “These countries have been identified in every ivory trade analysis for the past decade as those most implicated in the illicit ivory trade…With the demand for ivory driving a widespread poaching crisis, CITES member countries must demand compliance with international law.”
177 countries have signed the CITES treaty. Those which fail to comply with treaty rules can face CITES-recommended trade restrictions in the 35,000 species that the convention covers, including timber and crocodile skins.
To avoid such trade restrictions, Thailand can move to ban all ivory sales in its territory. Criminals are known to take advantage of local laws to launder huge amounts of illegal African ivory through Thai shops. These local shops have legal permission to sell domestic elephant ivory. WWF has started a petition urging the Thai prime minister to impose an immediate ban on the ivory trade. At present the number of people who have joined the petition are nearing 400,000.
WWF urges other countries to take part in the fight against illegal ivory trade. Governments could establish tracking mechanisms for global ivory stockpiles and compulsory registrations of every large scale ivory seizures. Follow-up investigations and routine forensic examination by enforcement officers are also recommended.
If neglected, the worsening illegal ivory trade could lead to a permanent change in ecosystems, affecting people who depend on these environments for a living.
Elephants for Africa Director and founder Dr. Kate Evans speaks to WWF on the elephant poaching crisis’ impact on humans, animals, and the environment.
“This mass loss of individuals leads to the breakdown of family units and elephant society at large, leaving herds of leaderless elephants trying to make their way through their home that has become a war zone. …A sea of humanity isolates this population, so if the last elephant were to die there would be no natural repopulation – leading to irreversible change within the system, which would affect the animals and people that rely on this wilderness area. …We cannot fully comprehend the extent of the impact the extinction of the African elephant will have on the ecology and economy of Africa, yet this is where we are heading if we do not stop the illegal ivory trade.”
WWF’s Global Species Programme Director Carlos Drews says “Elephants are disappearing from more and more places in Africa because the ivory trade has exploded out of control. Every country that has signed the CITES treaty has a responsibility to protect elephants by holding member governments accountable for their involvement in this deadly trade.”
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