Elephant experts urge CITES to protect elephants

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Doha, Qatar
World renowned elephant scientists and researchers presented new data today at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP 15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Doha, calling for Parties to reject downlisting and ivory sale proposals.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, Conservation biologist, Dr Sam Wasser and elephant research specialist Dr Joyce Poole of ElephantVoices and the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, presented data on the precarious state of elephant populations in Zambia and Tanzania and the urgent need for ongoing protection of elephants.

“The data are clear – Tanzania and Zambia are among the largest sources of, and conduits for, the illegal ivory trade in Africa,” said Dr Wasser. “Both the Tanzanian and Zambian elephants meet the biological criteria to remain on Appendix I. Moreover, petitions for one-off sales encourage poaching by increasing anticipation of legal trade.”

“We disagree with the Secretariat’s statement that the biological criteria show that Loxodonta africana does not meet the criteria for retention in Appendix I,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton. “There are no figures available for the Tanzanian elephant population three generations ago with which to compare present estimates.

“There has been a massive drop of over 65% of the elephants since 1979. After a period of recovery following the 1989 ivory trade ban, there is once again an ominous decline of 30,000 elephants in the last three years. On evidence of recent surveys, cited in the Panel of Experts, Tanzania may be at a tipping point poised for massive declines.”

The experts presented further evidence on Zambian elephants indicating the very high probability that the population has declined by more than 50% over the last 75 years, meeting the criterion for retention in Appendix I.

“It is absolutely imperative that Parties examine all the data relating to these elephants, if they do it is clear that downlistings cannot be considered at this time,” said Dr Poole. “We implore Parties to apply the precautionary principle and reject the Tanzanian and Zambian proposals – it is critical to protect the long-term future of African elephants.”

“Scientific facts clearly show that the elephant populations in Zambia and Tanzania are seriously threatened; enforcement facts clearly show that neither poaching nor smuggling is under control in either Tanzania or Zambia and the majority of elephant range states are urgently calling to keep the highest level of protection for all elephants across Africa for at least the next nine years,” said Jason Bell-Leask, Director IFAW Southern Africa.

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