US citizens stand behind global ban on elephant ivory trade

Thursday, May 31, 2007
Washington, D.C.
By a massive eight to one, Americans stand together with people across Western Europe in supporting the proposed ban on trade in ivory products from endangered elephants. According to a new Ipsos MORI poll of 1,000 Americans aged 15+ carried out for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org), public support in the USA was 72% in favor of a ban , 9% opposed it. In the four countries in Europe where polls were taken over the past few weeks (Britain, France, Italy and Spain) people responded on average by seven to one in support of the ban.
“The people have spoken, and they are clearly saying they do not want the gruesome slaughter of elephants to continue unnecessarily,” says Cindy Milburn, IFAW’s US Regional Acting Director. “An estimated 20,000 elephants are killed annually, and the people are speaking out on their behalf through this poll.”

The UN - backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meets in The Hague on June 3-15. Conservationists fear that almost two decades of elephant protection will be reversed if plans by three Southern African nations to sell 66 tons (60 tonnes) of stockpiled ivory are voted through.

In 1989, CITES brought in a global ban on the commercial trade in ivory in order to protect elephant numbers. More recently, some African countries have been permitted to sell stockpiles of ivory with special permissions from CITES. However, these stockpile sales are believed to only further flood markets leading to an increased demand. In many African countries, poaching of elephants for their ivory has caused a sharp decline in elephant numbers.

Kenya and Mali have proposed a 20-year moratorium on the trade of ivory products from all elephants in Africa. When asked “Do you think that the American Government should strongly or tend to support, or strongly or tend to oppose the new ban on ivory", seven in 10 Americans (72%), over eight in ten British (83%) and French (85%, and around three in four of the Spanish (76%) and Italians (72%) supported the ban. Six in 10 people in the USA (59%) said they strongly supported the American Government voting to support the ban.

The ratio of support is higher in a number of European countries – France (12:1), Great Britain (10:1) and Spain (8:1).

“The results of this poll are encouraging,” says Milburn. “The violence that the ivory trade perpetuates, both amongst elephant populations and those that are charged with protecting them, is flourishing. It is vital for US citizens to be aware of the life that is lost protecting endangered wildlife, and this poll illustrates that they are and that they want something to be done about it.” Seven rangers throughout East and Central Africa were killed in three separate shoot-outs with poachers last week alone.

Over 26 tonnes (29 tons) of elephant ivory was seized between August 2005 and August 2006, which is the highest annual seizure rate witnessed since the 1989 CITES ban went into effect. In addition, enforcement authorities estimate that nearly 90% of contraband slips through controls undetected.

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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