At this CITES, let’s get down to the real business for elephants

Poachers slaughtered at least 200 elephants for their tusks in Cameroon during a killing spree that began in mid-January 2012. © Boubandjida Safari LodgeAt this year’s 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Bangkok, 4-15 March, deliberations on elephants and the ivory trade will once again be a hot topic. 

However, this time discussions won’t centre on proposals to sell ivory stockpiles, a refreshing turn of events with such having dominated CITES discussions for the past 15 years. 

Instead, the focus will be on elephant conservation and, in particular, how to deal with the current elephant poaching crisis.  Elephants are, once again, in the firing line. 

2011 was the worst year on record for large-scale ivory seizures, with over 23 tonnes of ivory seized in illicit trade.  And, as the numbers are tallied for last year, it is estimated that it could have been an even worse year for elephants. 

At this year’s meeting, there will be serious discussion about the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP), an agreed plan by elephant range States to address a range of elephant conservation issues in Africa. 

The first priority in this plan is to deal seriously with poaching and illicit trade.  There will also be discussions on how to secure funding, through the African Elephant Fund (AEF), to support the goals of the AEAP. 

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) applauds the Government of Tanzania for withdrawing their ivory trade proposal so that the discussions at this CoP will be appropriately focused. 

The time is now for CITES to show its teeth as a serious conservation treaty and not one simply designed to promote and regulate trade.

--JB

Keep an eye on our CITES page for all the latest updates from the 16th Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Thailand. 

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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