More than 100 elephants a day still slaughtered by poachers 20 years after ivory ban

Tuesday, 20 October, 2009
London – Despite ivory trade being banned 20 years ago on Sunday, a shocking 104 elephants are still being killed every day for their tusks.  

This alarming level of illegal hunting could drive the African elephant to extinction across much of Africa in just 15 years.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – is calling for urgent action to protect elephants. It calls on the European Union and all CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Parties to stop supporting one-off ivory sales, legal ivory trade and elephant down-listing proposals. Instead, they are urged to support Kenya’s proposal to extend the current “resting period” on elephant and ivory decisions from nine to 20 years when it is introduced at the next meeting of CITES in March 2010. IFAW also calls on the EU to help range states that are requesting assistance to fight poaching.

IFAW’s UK Director Robbie Marsland said: “Most people will be shocked to hear that, 20 years on from a ban on international ivory trade, elephants in Africa are still threatened by commercial poaching. The ivory trade must be banned once again, and comprehensively, if we want to prevent the extinction of elephants.”

Initially, the ivory moratorium worked. Elephant poaching dropped in most African range states and ivory market prices plummeted around the world from 1990 until discussions over one-off ivory stockpile sales started in 1996. Since then figures have shown that domestic ivory markets, or limited ivory sales, lead directly to increased poaching – even if not necessarily in the same country.

The international illegal trade in wildlife is second only to the illegal trade in drugs and arms and worth an estimated $20 billion (£12.5bn) annually.  

Illegal ivory is now being used in conflicts in east Africa in much the same way as ‘blood diamonds’ were in civil wars across west Africa in the 1990s. Demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has reached record levels. The Sudanese Janjaweed cross into Chad to poach ivory and then take it back across the border to Khartoum where it is sold on to China.

Because the fate of an entire species is at stake, we cannot continue experimenting with limited ivory markets, one-off sales or population down-listings. A mistaken belief in the power of ‘free markets’ is driving elephants to extinction.

Mr Marsland added: “Sadly, the truth is that ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere. On the 20th anniversary of the ban, let’s do all we can to end the ivory trade and safeguard elephants for the future.”

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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