African Elephant Coalition in Strategic Ivory Trade Meeting
The Coalition’s chairman, Mali Minister for Environment, Aghatam AG Alhassane, said, “We need to discuss modalities for the formation of an action plan that will enable us to maintain a viable and healthy elephant population free from threats posed by consumptive use and international ivory trade. As the African Elephant Coalition, we seek to champion eco-tourism for the benefit of local communities. This is the spirit, purpose and mission of the Bamako Declaration.”
Dr Noah Wekesa, Minister for Forestry and Wildlife in Kenya and co-chair of the African Elephant Coalition, said, “The Standing Committee Meeting 57 of CITES to review the status of the elephant and legal ivory trade issues is set for July 2008 in Geneva. With an impending sale of ivory stockpiles from Southern Africa states, it is imperative that the Coalition is speaking with one voice beforehand on issues relating to ivory trade controls, and the decision making mechanisms used by CITES to regulate ivory trade,” he said.
In addition, the meeting will discuss the formation of a full-fledged secretariat to manage the Coalition and give its views on the establishment of a proposed African Elephant Fund which, it hopes, will address programmes aimed at resolving elephant-human conflict, habitat loss and other threats within elephant range states. James Isiche, regional director for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) in East Africa said, “With IFAW’s facilitation, we foresee the Coalition growing into a formidable voice for elephant conservation in Africa – which in the past has been undermined by poaching and ivory trade. To push the Coalition to the next level will, however, require assistance from Governments and like-minded conservation bodies and development agencies.”
The African Elephant Coalition made history at the 2007 CITES Conference of Parties Meeting at The Hague when East and West African elephant range states joined forces and successfully lobbied for a 9-year freeze on ivory trade. The Coalition is, however, concerned that without proper trade controls, the impending one-off sale of an estimated 119 tons of ivory stockpiles from Southern Africa states, said to represent over 10,000 dead elephants, could trigger renewed poaching of elephants. The Coalition has also expressed misgivings about China, indicted in the past as a consumer of illicit ivory, being officially approved by CITES as an importer of some of the legally-held ivory stockpiles.