Germany takes action, pledges improved elephant protection

The train arrives at Berlin’s central station on time.

Through the massive glass roof I can see the Reichstag and the rambling building housing parliamentary representatives. Even on foot I arrive punctually for my appointment. I intend to speak about elephants with politicians of various parties. About how serious the current threat to elephants in many African countries is, about how many elephants are being slaughtered due to a voracious greed for ivory, and about how urgently we must act to improve the protection of elephants. As well about how Germany could play an important pioneering role in the protection efforts.

The aim of my talks is to achieve a cross-party resolution in the German Bundestag that would commit the government to undertaking tangible measures and progress towards improved elephant protection. However, I have some convincing to do. It is obvious that many of the politicians are unaware of the dimensions of the ongoing crisis and the massively increased poaching of elephants.

To this end I recount the experiences and reports of my colleague Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, who is head of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in France and manages projects in western and central Africa.

Earlier this year she gave us a clear idea of the bloodbath taking place in Cameroon: At the Bouba Njida National Park poachers slaughtered some 650 elephants in just a few weeks. I quote figures on the latest confiscations of illegally traded ivory and describe the major obstacles that some African countries face in their efforts to protect their remaining elephants.

I also correct the widely held misconception that in some regions there is an excess of elephants, calling for culling measures.

My words had their effect, and together with subsequent regular reports in the media of ever more massacres by poachers and frequent confiscations of vast amounts of ivory, things had now begun to move.

At the end of November it reached fruition: The Bundestag unanimously adopted a cross-party resolution that commits the government to enhancing elephant protection.

Among other things this means the federal government will assist African countries with elephant populations in their fight against the poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Germany must also participate in international activities, for example joint operations with Europol and Interpol, to improve the official enforcement, especially in transit and destination countries, which are important aspects of the resolution.

In addition, the government is obliged to support projects for better protection of elephant habitats.

The cross-party resolution is a strong signal to the rest of the EU that they need to, as a block, work to improve elephant protection.

This is important, especially in view of the conference next March of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where crucial decisions about elephants are due.


Regrettably, the governing coalition parties CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Party) and FDP (Liberal Democratic Party) did not agree to include the rejection of any proposals for further stockpile-sales by any African countries at the upcoming CITES conference into the resolution. 

That is a pity.

We can only hope that no such requests of this kind arise at the conference, but if they do that they are refused by an overwhelming majority.

For this reason, not only should the German government put their weight behind this in the next few months within the EU, but also at the CITES conference in March 2013.


Translation: Alan Frostick

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Chief of Staff, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for International Operations
Vice President for International Operations
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Campaigner, IFAW Netherlands
Campaigner, IFAW Netherlands
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy