CITES ANALYSIS: Backing proposals to save elephants

As the next Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) approaches, battles lines are drawn and redrawn as negotiations on subtle nuances of language in proposals are assessed and interpreted.

Headlines are already screaming that the battle for elephants may be lost before the conference even begins. This is simply not the case.

When it comes to elephants, IFAW is clear on our position. We support every reasonable measure that will save the lives of elephants.

That means we oppose CoP 17 Proposals 14 and 15 (one by Namibia; and another by Namibia and Zimbabwe calling for amendments to annotations in the listing of elephants on Appendix II). These proposals would remove Namibia and Zimbabwe from the specific list of countries that are forbidden from proposing any one-off ivory sales until this year. Essentially this opens the door for ivory sales.

History has shown us that previous one-off ivory sales proved disastrous for elephants—with poaching reaching heights unseen since 1989 when a CITES ban on all ivory sales was first implemented.

READ: New Study: Legal Ivory Trade Backfired, Unleashed Elephant Poaching Crisis

We support CoP 17 Proposal 16 by Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Uganda to uplist all African elephants to Appendix I. This requires uplisting for populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from Appendix II.

The current poaching crisis —with one elephant being killed every 15 minutes—requires that every action that can be taken to protect elephants should be taken. This uplisting would view all African elephants as part of a broader continental population and give all elephants increased protections— sending a strong precautionary message to both ivory consumer countries and the enforcement community.

IFAW also supports every effort to close domestic ivory markets and the destruction of ivory stockpiles wherever feasible.

The next CoP also offers all CITES Parties the chance to strengthen support for the African Elephant Action Plan and associated African Elephant Fund. These existing mechanisms afford Parties the chance to truly prioritise elephant conservation and secure the future for African Elephants.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime