EU to Make Crucial Decision on Fate of Elephants

Friday, January 22, 2010
(22 January 2010, Brussels) - Delegates from the 23-government African Elephant Coalition (AEC) started arriving in Brussels today for a week of talks aimed at persuading EU institutions not to allow resumption of the international ivory trade.

Next week, Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife and co-chairman of the Coalition, Mr. Noah Wekesa, will also travel to Brussels to urge the EU to support an all-out ban on ivory trade to ensure conservation of elephants at a critical moment for their survival.

A detrimental or ambivalent position by the European Commission on proposals to tighten and extend a ban on legal ivory trading is feared by the Coalition. Worse, many EU member states are rumoured to be favourable to calls by two African countries to resume ivory trade. If this were to be the pan-EU position, it would hijack the strong stance of a majority of African countries which want to maintain an existing trade ban and extend it to 2028.

This issue is handled within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (the “CITES Convention”). Many African states feel that the EU has not supported them firmly enough in CITES in the past. Sitting on the fence again, they argue, would be tantamount to handing the EU’s 27 votes to the pro-trade lobby. The next conference of the parties meeting is in Doha, Qatar from 13 to 25 March. EU governments are preparing their positions now.

“The very important debate in EU circles about the future of blue fin tuna has masked the dramatic situation of African elephants which we thought had been resolved at the last meeting of CITES two years ago,” says Senior Assistant Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Patrick Omondi. “That’s why we are taking the unprecedented step of convening a special meeting of the African Elephant Coalition in Brussels to impress on the EU Commission, Member States and Parliament that they must not support the few who want to sell ivory again and thereby spur the poaching that decimates elephant populations in large parts of Africa.”

Both Tanzania and Zambia have asked for measures to allow them to sell existing ivory stocks. However, all the evidence of the past shows that these so-called legal sales result in poached ivory finding its way into the stocks put up for sale and a resurgence of the illegal trade which stimulates the unlawful butchering of elephants by poachers. Both Japan and especially China are blamed for de facto promoting both the legal and illegal trade by continuing to purchase ivory while the rest of the world has stopped.

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