Attempts to reopen international ivory trade fail at CITES conference

Attempts by Southern African elephant range states at CITES to resume international sales of ivory stockpiles were rejected by governments at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

On day six of the forum in Geneva, Switzerland, Zambia abandoned its bid to sell its ivory stockpiles as part of a proposal to downlist its elephants to Appendix II, opting instead to only seek permission to export other elephant products, which failed.

A proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell stockpiled ivory from their countries and South Africa also failed when voted on by attending delegates from the 183 country-strong forum.

Matt Collis, IFAW’s Director of International Policy, and head of IFAW’s delegation at CITES, said: “IFAW welcomes this outcome. Any legal market in ivory presents opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory. We have yet to see any evidence that legal ivory trade is being adequately controlled to prevent this happening. Parties need to focus on the closure of domestic markets and markedly increase their law enforcement efforts to prevent illegal trade.

“Poaching skyrocketed across Africa after the last ivory stockpile sales back in 2008. IFAW is delighted governments at CITES have chosen to reject repeating that failed experiment.”

Elephants are in crisis with at least 20,000 being illegally killed each year for their ivory. On average around 55 elephants are poached every day in Africa; that’s roughly one every 26 minutes.

Recent analysis appears to show a clear correlation between the 2008 ivory stockpile sales and an increase in illegal trade and poaching – there has been an estimated increase of 71% in ivory smuggling out of Africa following the 2008 stockpile sales.

The proposal by Zambia to downlist its elephants to Appendix II was rejected by 102 votes against, with 22 votes of support and 13 abstentions. The proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe was rejected by 101 votes, with 23 in support and 18 abstentions.





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