Botswana Throws down Gauntlet for Elephants

Botswana Throws down Gauntlet for Elephants
Monday, 3 October, 2016
Johannesburg, South Africa

Botswana has publicly recognized the elephant crisis and has thrown down the gauntlet by breaking with the group of Southern African countries that traditionally promote legalization of ivory, and declaring they can no longer support legal sales of ivory.

Speaking at CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg, South Africa today, Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama said that despite having the world’s largest elephant population (estimated at 120,000 animals), his country would not ignore its responsibility to other African range states.

“Although Botswana has previously supported the limited legal ivory sales from countries that manage their elephant herds sustainably, we now recognise that we can no longer support these sales and we cannot deal with the issue in a vacuum. We must unite in solidarity with our colleagues regionally and worldwide to stop this crisis,” said Khama.

“Poaching is so intense that in 10 years’ time we could lose 50 per cent of Africa’s remaining elephants. And, in countries with small isolated populations, it’s likely that elephants would disappear. There is high human cost to this illegal trade as rangers from the communities are losing their lives because of the demand for ivory. Now is the time for action and the current elephant poaching crisis that we as a global community faces, must be dealt with emphatically”.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) hailed Botswana’s stance as brave and groundbreaking.

“Today Namibia , South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe refused to accept the consensus amongst elephant range states - including Botswana and Malawi who had previously shared their position – to uplist all elephants to Appendix I. The group argued they should be excluded from Appendix I as they had stable populations,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of Wildlife Trade for IFAW.

“This is nothing short of a tragedy for elephants. What we needed to see was more leadership such as that demonstrated by Botswana. Botswana is taking the Ubuntu approach, an African inclusionary approach, which says ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. They are saying that, at a time when we are seeing such a dramatic increase in the slaughter of elephants for ivory, we must stand together as African and as a global community to end the killing,” said Alie.

Khama continued to say: “There is clear and growing global consensus from consumer countries that ivory trade needs to be stopped if elephants are to be conserved effectively. Making all ivory illegal sends a clear message to the world and notifies consumers and markets that ivory trade endangers elephants and is banned under international law. If we do not take decisive action now and wait until the next CoP in 2019, the results would be catastrophic, many more elephants would have been poached for their ivory, many more rangers would have lost their lives, and criminal syndicates and corrupt officials who are enabling the trade to flourish, will continue to profit from this destructive trade”.

Botswana said today it had taken the decision to ban ivory for a further 10 years until 2024. It urged caution of stimulating illegal trade by discussion on further trade at this time when it’s obvious that elephants are facing severe challenges from poaching.

Botswana supports inclusion of her population in Appendix I and support the uplisting proposal.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals 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. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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