Elephants and CITES

Independently, and with partners from the Species Survival Network (SSN), DSWF works on various wildlife trade issues sending qualified representatives to international meetings to lobby on issues such as the illegal trade in ivory and compliance and enforcement issues.

We fund an expert team that includes Dr Roz Reeve, one of the most respected and experienced environmental lawyers involved in this field, who specialises in enforcement and compliance and represents DSWF at the highest level of international engagement.

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. 183 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 which imposes a commercial trade ban and Appendix II which 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.

Other issues that have been of particular interest are the continued controversial decisions to allow one-off trade sales in ivory, which DSWF opposes.  DSWF also works on other specific species proposals relating to wildlife trade, the status of species and their protection.

In 2016 DSWF attended the Conference of Parties in South Africa recommending that CITES members support and adopt the following proposals which have been submitted by the African Elephant Coalition:

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Closure of the markets is essential to complement an Appendix I listing and would reduce opportunities for the illegal trade.
4. Ivory stockpile destruction and management to ensure that there is no stockpiled ivory to be sold.
5. Restricting trade in live elephants – ending the export of African elephants outside their natural range including to zoos and other captive facilities overseas.
6. 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.

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Photo: Andrew White

Did you know?

CITES regulates the international trade in endangered species