Going once, going twice: Remnants of 10,000+ elephants may be on the auction block

Monday, 9 June, 2008
Washington, D.C.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the international sale of ivory from endangered African elephants has been authorized by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat. An estimated 119 tons (108 tonnes) of ivory, put up for sale from four southern African nations, which was in part conditionally approved in 2002, has been audited and verified by the CITES Secretariat. This sum represents the deaths of over 10,000 African elephants.
Significant amounts of ivory in these stocks up for export from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, has been collected through culling, which is defined as killing as a means to address population control, and also natural deaths.
Newly released document submissions to next month’s 57th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC) reveal that the Secretariat has given its endorsement of the sales as well as its support of China being accepted as an importer for these stocks. However, the final verdict rests in the hands of the full SC.
Japan is the sole country yet approved by CITES as a trading partner for these ivory stocks while China is up for consideration at CITES SC57 next month. “China is the single largest destination for illegal ivory and to accept them as an importer for these legal stocks will only sustain the rampant poaching that African nations are faced with today,” says Michael Wamithi, Director of the global Elephants Program at International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org), and former Director of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
“We hope that the Standing Committee puts the brakes on these sales which will undoubtedly prompt even further slaughter of this highly intelligent keystone species,” continues Wamithi, who is speaking to the likelihood of poachers attempting to launder their illegal stocks into Asia’s already burgeoning markets.
“Furthermore, each day rangers are putting their lives on the line to defend elephants and other wildlife. Poor African nations do not have the resources to endure the level of ivory poaching being experienced today. There are an estimated 20,000 elephants slaughtered each year for their tusks. And, the bloodshed extends to human lives as well. There are countless rangers continuously killed in the line of duty. How many lives must be lost to realize the gruesome reality and reach of the elephant ivory trade?”
In 1989, CITES Parties listed the African elephant on Appendix I, effectively prohibiting all international trade in elephants and their derivatives, including ivory, but in 1997 this was resanctioned and certain populations were down-listed to Appendix II, allowing trade with special permissions from CITES.
One year ago, a nine-year suspension on elephant ivory trade was approved at the 14th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties, coming into affect after the stockpiles sales are completed.

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