European Parliament calls on Member States to vote for ivory trade moratorium

Friday, May 25, 2007
Brussels, Belgium
Today international efforts for better elephant and wildlife protection moved a step forward when the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU objectives for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will meet in The Hague from June 3 to 15, 2007. The resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority urges the Commission and the EU Member States to support a proposal by Kenya and Mali for a 20-year total ban on international trade in ivory. In a separate roll call vote 546 European parliamentarians voted in favour of the ivory moratorium, with only 13 votes against.
A majority of citizens in several European countries support a 20-year total ban on international ivory trade. A series of polls just completed in key EU Member States, together representing some 320 million European citizens, show overwhelming levels of support for the moratorium, ranging from 72% to 87% of the population. These polls were carried out by independent polling organizations during March and April 2007 in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom (France 85%, UK 83%, Spain 76%, Italy 72%, Germany 87%, Netherlands 85%).
 
This strong signal from European citizens and Parliamentarians for better protection for elephants comes just a week before the CITES convention is set to determine the fate of endangered species threatened by trade. Conservationists fear that almost two decades of elephant protection will be reversed if plans by three Southern African nations to sell 60 tonnes of stockpiled ivory are voted through.
 
Many African countries, including elephant range states in West, East and Central Africa, remain firmly opposed to reopening ivory trade, as any legal trade drives demand and provides incentives for illegal trade and increased poaching.  Among the range states opposed to any relaxation in the ban on ivory trade, Kenya and Mali, supported by Ghana and Togo, are calling on CITES to adopt a 20 year ivory moratorium.
 
Lesley O’Donnell, EU Director of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org), says: “At least 20,000 elephants are killed illegally each year for their ivory tusks. The European Parliament is reflecting the strong conviction of European citizens that the best way to protect elephants from this deadly trade is by backing a 20-year ivory ban. Parliamentarians have sent a clear message to EU Governments that they should vote for the moratorium on ivory trade in CITES.”
 
The illegal trade in ivory has escalated in recent years; between August 2005 and August 2006, over 23 metric tonnes of poached ivory were seized by Customs and Enforcement officials around the world. The majority of this trade originates in Africa and is smuggled to Asia, where illicit ivory markets flourish. These seizures are suspected to represent a mere 10% to 15% percent of the actual illegal trade.
 
Not only elephants are the victims. Only last week three wildlife rangers and four poachers were killed in a pre-dawn shoot-out in Kenya’s Tana River District. The gang of poachers was en route to Tsavo East National Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said, when they were ordered to stop, but instead opened fire. Sadly this is not an isolated incident. Three rangers died recently protecting elephants in Zakouma National Park, Chad. 

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