Gabon Torches Ivory to Protect Elephants

 achive photo © IFAW/S. Njumbi
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

Nearly five tonnes of elephant ivory and thousands of ivory ornaments went up in smoke in Gabon, Central West Africa this morning.

The bonfire, lit by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, once and for all put Government stockpiles of legal and confiscated tusks and ivory items out of reach of the illegal ivory trade.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) applauded Gabon and said the gesture was powerful and symbolic of the desire by range states to protect their elephants from being killed for their ivory.

“The decision by Gabon to destroy its ivory stockpile underlines a commitment to stamp out wildlife crime, in particular ivory smuggling. Taking ivory out of the market is, for the moment, the only way to stop rampant and out of control killing of elephants,” said Jason Bell, IFAW Director for Elephants.

Gabon, in Central West Africa, is home to over half of Africa’s forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). While Gabon’s elephant herds have remained relatively stable, authorities are under pressure hold ivory poaching at bay with at least two massacres detected in reserves in the past 12 months.

Lighting the ivory pyre in the capital Libreville, this morning, President Ali Bongo, made a plea for help in protecting elephants from poaching and illegal trade.

“Gabon’s elephants are under siege because of an illegal international market … I call on the international community to join us in this fight. If we do not reverse the tide, the African elephant is in serious trouble,” he said.

IFAW’s Bell said that an unprecedented increase in mass poaching in Central and
West Africa had brought some local elephant populations to the brink of extinction.
In early 2012 an eight week poaching spree by horseback bandits in Cameroon, a northern neighbour to Gabon, killed at least 650 elephants representing up to 50 per cent of the elephant population in the Bouba Ndjida National Park.
“Poor law enforcement makes elephant populations, especially those in Central and West Africa, vulnerable. As these states are faced with the responsibility to protect elephants, so the world needs to support them in these efforts. As long as markets exist for ivory, elephants will continue to be killed,” said IFAW’s Bell.
IFAW works directly with governments to train and equip wildlife authorities to better protect elephant populations

NOTE TO EDITORS: Few animals are as threatened by wildlife trafficking as elephants. Earlier this year IFAW raised the alarm as hundreds of elephants were slaughtered in Cameroon. A recent report from IFAW makes it clear that Chinese demand, and demand in other Asian countries, is largely to blame.

IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wwildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,300 governmental representatives at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006. Just this month IFAW has conducted trainings in Bhutan, Congo Brazzaville, Dubai and Kazakhstan.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
 

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia