The Standing Committee of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), at its meeting in Lyon, France, on Wednesday agreed that countries must continue to report on their domestic ivory markets.
CITES Decision 18.117, adopted in 2019, directed countries “that have not closed their domestic markets… to report to the Secretariat for consideration by the Standing Committee…on what measures they are taking to ensure that their domestic ivory markets are not contributing to poaching or illegal trade”.
But in Standing Committee Document 39, the Secretariat recommended that the Standing Committee “invite the Conference of the Parties (COP 19, which will meet in November) to agree that Decisions 18.117 to 18.119 have been fully implemented and can be deleted.”
Today, many countries disagreed and called for the decisions to be renewed at COP 19, including Israel, the United States, the EU and its member states, China, the United Kingdom, Gabon, and Burkina Faso.
The EU also called for an analysis of whether ivory seizures connected to countries which have not closed their domestic ivory markets may influence illegal international trade.The request was supported by Gabon, a member of the African Elephant Coalition (AEC).
According to Dieudonné Yameogo, Directeur de La Faune et des Ressources Cynégétiques of Burkina Faso, also a member of the AEC (as translated by interpreter):
“We would stress that any legal market offers opportunity for laundering ivory and can therefore makea contribution to illegal trade and poaching. Based on the information we provided on the Japanese ivory market andits contribution to illegal trade in ivory, we feel that decisions 18.117 to18.119 have not been fully implemented. Those parties which have not yet closed their domestic ivory markets must continue to report on the situation until matters have been completely resolved. We feel that these decisions should be renewed at the COP 19 rather than deleted. And in conclusion we would remind countries with markets that are still open such as Japan that they must close those markets.”
According to Masayuki Sakamoto, executive director of the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund: “As we know, legal domestic markets stimulate demand for ivory and provide opportunity to launder ivory into international trade. Despite recent amendments, Japan’s ivory controls remain ineffective at preventing illegal ivory exports sourced from Japan’s legal markets and its market contributes to illegal trade. We have unfinished business. Therefore, we agree with previous interventions by the parties calling for the Standing Committee to recommend COP 19 to renew 18.117 to 18.119 and urge Japan to close its domestic ivory markets.”
Since 2016, most ivory-consuming nations have taken steps to close or nearly close their illegal markets,including the US, China, Hong Kong SAR of China, the UK, European Union, and Singapore. Japan remains the most significant remaining open ivory market.
The African Elephant Coalition (AEC), which comprises 32 African nations dedicated to protecting Africa’s elephants, have lobbied Japan to close its ivory market for years.