Governments attending the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) faced criticism on Wednesday over failing to close their legal domestic ivory markets – while the forum as a whole agreed to ask such countries to report at the next meeting on what action they are taking.
A coalition of 30 African elephant range states in favour of elephant protection strongly criticised the failure of Japan and the EU to close their markets as recommended at the last CITES Conference, in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016.
However, governments at CITES refused to back the call from these African countries to tighten language in a CITES resolution to unequivocally call for the closure of all domestic legal ivory markets. Instead, they accepted a compromise to ask countries that have not closed domestic markets to report back on measures they are taking at the next CITES conference.
Matt Collis, IFAW Director, International Policy, and head of IFAW’s delegation at CITES, said: “We congratulate the many countries, including China, the US, UK and others who have taken or announced measures to close their ivory markets. Legal ivory markets and a lack of action against large illegal markets in certain countries continue to provide opportunities for criminal syndicates to traffic ivory.
“We urge countries whose legal domestic markets remain open, particularly Japan and the EU, to close them as a matter of urgency, and hope they will be in a position to report back on such steps at the next CITES conference.”
IFAW believes that, until such markets are shut down, efforts to end the poaching crisis and stop criminal syndicates from trafficking ivory, will be frustrated.
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.
The Conference of Parties (CoP18) of CITES is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland until August 28.
Proposals to address the listing status of elephants on the CITES appendices, which will determine if future sales of stockpiled ivory are allowed or not, are scheduled to be introduced by the forum today (Thursday).
During the debate on domestic ivory markets, the EU announced it would soon be introducing new regulations. Collis added: “IFAW is pleased to hear the EU intends to come forward with revised regulations for its ivory market. IFAW has long been calling for such measures and we await further detail with interest. Any changes must shut down ivory markets in the EU with all but extremely limited exemptions, in line with actions taken by other nations like China, the US and the UK.”
The current EU regulations afford too many opportunities for criminals to pass off ivory from poached elephants as antiques and export to other markets around the world.
IFAW works in more than 40 countries, to rescue and protect animals and their habitats, for a world where animals and people can thrive together. A team of IFAW experts are attending CITES CoP18 and are available for interview throughout.