African nations join forces to form anti-ivory trade coalition

Thursday, February 7, 2008
Bamako, Mali
Delegates and experts of wildlife conservation agencies in Africa from 17 countries came together and formally created a united front to save their countries most valued flagship species, the African elephant.
Delegates gathered in the West African country of Mali’s capital for a two-day meeting to discuss how they will pave the way forward for elephants following decisions at the 14th Conference of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) to allow huge ivory stock sales, which will take place before commencement of a nine-year trade suspension. There is a great concern by range states that huge tons of ivory being released into the markets will only stimulate demand and prompt poachers to kill more elephants.
 
The Director of National Parks & Biosphere Reserves in Mali, Bourama Niagate, acknowledged that protecting this keystone species is vital for the ecosystem as well as the tourism sector. Mali has only 300 elephants remaining, while just before the initial international ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989 there were about 800. “We must recognize that this upcoming nine-year resting period does not mean peace for the elephants. Ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere. Success in elephant conservation will depend first on the elimination of ivory trade.
 
“In addition, our countries will need to work together to formulate as well as enforce conservation and management policies that are non-consumptive if we would wish for future generations to enjoy our most treasured wildlife heritage, African elephants,” said Niagate.
 
Patrick Omondi, Kenya Wildlife Service Head of Species, agrees that there is much hard work ahead for the coalition and hopes that more elephant range states will engage themselves. “I would like to call upon many other elephant range states to join and support the purpose and goals of the coalition, including the development of the Elephant Plan.”
 
The formation of the coalition comes at a fitting time as ivory smuggling has recently been all over the news. Less than two weeks ago, Namibian officials seized 13 elephant tusks, totaling nearly 200 kg of ivory, and representing seven dead elephants. In the same period, Kenyan officials seized some 80 kg of raw and worked ivory at the international airport in Nairobi. Meanwhile, further south in Zimbabwe, police arrested 11 suspected poachers, who are believed to have killed 15 elephants within two weeks in Hwange National Park. And, in Cameroon, CRTV (Cameroon Radio Television) reported that a poaching network has been disbanded in the south, with a confiscation of 20 tusks. All aforementioned incidences took place in just two weeks.
 
“This is a momentous occasion in the world of elephant conservation,” remarks Michael Wamithi, Programme Manager for IFAW’s global elephant campaign. “Numerous African countries have come together and essentially proclaimed that they will not stand for their wildlife to be decimated any longer.”
 
“Rampant trade in Asia is much to blame for the continued violence,” Wamithi states unwaveringly. “It is clearly an unfair equation, with the wealth of China and Japan in contrast to financially challenged African nations. Range states undoubtedly lack both human and financial resources to protect elephants against consumer demand, and it our duty to step in and mitigate such inequities. The first step is to reject China as a trading partner.”
 
In both 2005 and 2006, IFAW conducted investigations into China’s ivory trade regulations. Such reports concluded that domestic trade control mechanisms in China are far from adequate and it is impossible to ensure that continued trade in ivory will not negatively impact African and Asian elephant populations.

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