The protection of elephants is still at an impasse at CITES meeting

The 62nd Meeting of the CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Standing Committee began its last day much as it began.

Time after time, the chairman concluded work would have to continue following the meeting and be decided by the Conference of the Parties in March, 2013, effectively delaying decisions on matters vital to the protection of elephants and other species until further down the road.  Not necessarily a bad outcome for elephants, though, given a proposal to restart the global ivory trade was on the table.

That proposal was roundly rejected by the Committee, but what will replace it remains unclear – the Standing Committee is still required to come up with some way to resolve the ivory trade controversies that have consistently dominated CITES meetings for more than 20 years.

The fact about 40 elephants were slaughtered by poachers in Chad 25 July, the third day of the meeting, reminded delegates what’s at stake. 

The majority of illegal ivory goes to China and, to a lesser extent, Thailand.

African ranges states want China to reduce the growing demand for ivory among the Chinese population and fully enforce its ivory trade laws.  China wants elephant range states and donor states like the U.S. and EU nations to effectively secure elephant habitat in Africa. 

Though it seems like a dispute, they’re both right – China ultimately holds the key, but security is paramount as well, along with tough enforcement at every point between.

This is why IFAW works throughout the chain – with African range states to safeguard elephant populations and close unregulated markets, with governments in transit countries to intercept illegal ivory shipments and prosecute criminals, and with China and public and private stakeholders to reduce the demand for ivory that ultimately drives this devastating trade. 

Though important, CITES protection alone cannot protect elephants.  Only immediate global action at every step can save elephants before it’s too late.

-- PT

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia