DSWF heads to CITES to fight for the future of Africa’s elephants

16th September 2016

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A team from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation ( DSWF ), are heading to South Africa to fight for the survival of Africa’s elephants at the world’s biggest forum on international wildlife trade.

A United Nations agreement designed to regulate trade, CITES (the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) kicks off in Johannesburg on September 24 th and elephants are high on the agenda.

“This is a critical time for the future of Africa’s elephants,” says DSWF CEO Sally Case. “The recent ‘Great Elephant Census’ points at a shocking 30% decline in Africa’s elephants in the last seven years and, for the first time in history, more elephants are being killed than are being born. If we do not act now to protect Africa’s elephants from the rampant and illegal ivory trade we could soon reach a tipping point from which there is no return.”

DSWF has been championing Africa’s elephants for over 30 years funding anti-poaching and conservation projects as well as working with experts including Dr Roz Reeve, one of the most respected and experienced environmental lawyers specialising in enforcement and compliance, to advise at CITES.

“We were hugely heartened when the IUCN upheld the motion to close domestic ivory markets last week but what happens at CITES could be a turning point for elephants,” says Dr Reeve. “As this major meeting approaches it is clear that a small minority of countries still seeking to trade in ivory are looking increasingly isolated and out-dated.”

DSWF is recommending that CITES members support and adopt the following proposals which have been submitted by the African Elephant Coalition*:

· Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I – affording elephants the highest protection under international law by transferring the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, unifying all range states in a universal listing that bans international trade and ends the current split listing.

· Closure of domestic ivory markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory. Domestic markets currently enable laundering of poached ivory under the guise that it is antique, ‘pre-Convention’ or otherwise legally acquired. Closure of the markets is essential to complement an Appendix I listing and would reduce opportunities for the illegal trade.

· Ivory stockpile destruction and management to ensure that there is no stockpiled ivory to be sold.

· Restricting trade in live elephants – ending the export of African elephants outside their natural range including to zoos and other captive facilities overseas.

· The Decision-Making Mechanism for the process of trade in ivory(DMM) – recommending the end of negotiations on the DMM which discusses the process to legalize the ivory trade which sends the wrong message – that a legal and sustainable ivory trade is possible. After nine years of negotiations that have gone nowhere it’s time to put an end to them.

Consistent with the proposals of the Species Survival Network (SSN) of which DSWF is a member, the team are determined that elephants will get the protection they deserve under international law.

“While these proposals may seem infinitely sensible to those who love elephants there are an increasingly isolated few who object and wish to see a legalized and continuing trade in ivory,” explains Sally Case. “But, as the recent Great Elephant Census clearly shows, Africa’s elephants are under incredible pressure. It is time for courageous and visionary leadership from all corners of the globe to do their bit to stop the slaughter. To lose one of the world’s most iconic species for the sake of trinkets and ornaments is not a legacy we should be proud of.”

NOTES:

*The African Elephant Coalition includes 29 African countries, 26 of them African elephant range states, comprising the overwhelming majority (70%) of the 37 countries in which African elephants are found.

About CITES:

The international trade in wild animals and plants is worth billions of dollars every year, and is having a serious impact on species survival. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) is a United Nations international agreement between governments, providing varying levels of protection for species that are, or may be, in danger of extinction from international trade. 175 member countries meet every three years for the CITES Conference of Parties ( CoP ) to debate trade Proposals by its member parties. CITES places ‘at-risk’ species in two main categories: Appendix I imposes a commercial trade ban and Appendix II monitors and regulates trade.

Endangered wildlife trade is a low priority for many governments. But without CITES, it would be a free-for-all. Many mechanisms have been developed under the treaty to combat illegal wildlife trade and to persuade countries to comply with controls such as bans on commercial trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant ivory (the compliance system). Currently they are under threat from lack of funding and forces within CITES trying to re-write the compliance system and prevent the use of trade sanctions when countries fail to comply with the treaty. DSWF works to strengthen this compliance and enforcement.

Other issues that have been of particular interest are the continued controversial decisions to allow one-off trade sales in ivory, which DSWF opposes and tries hard to minimise the detrimental impact on elephants, particularly in poorer range states. DSWF also focuses on other specific species proposals as and when appropriate (relating to wildlife trade, the status of species and their protection).

The elephant is a prime example of a species that has directly benefited from being listed on CITES Appendix 1, banning any trade. Between 1979 and 1989, more than 600,000 African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory, reducing the population by half. In 1989 the African elephant was given the highest level of protection under CITES, and an international ban on the trade in ivory put in place. However, in the last few years, with some African range states being granted one-off ivory sales, it has sent the message to traders and poachers that the trade is once again open and poaching has increased significantly. With its partners from Species Survival Network (SSN – a coalition of wildlife organisations working within the CITES framework to reduce the impact of international trade on wild fauna and flora) DSWF continues to lobby against any re-opening of the ivory trade, calling for a 20 year moratorium on ivory trading.

For a more detailed view of the proposals in this release please see the attached documents.

For more on DSWF’s work to protect Africa’s elephants click here

For further information and press enquiries call Vicky Flynn on 44(0)1483 272323