Bidding begins in controversial ivory sales

Thursday, 30 October, 2008
(London – 27 October 2008) – The first of four controversial auctions of stockpiled elephant ivory will take place tomorrow, despite conservationists' fears that this will lead to an increase in elephant poaching. More than 9,000 kg of ivory will be auctioned tomorrow in Namibia - the first time in nearly a decade that international trade in elephant ivory has been permitted by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The additional sales will take place over the next two weeks in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, with a total of 108 tonnes of ivory going under the hammer - representing over 10,000 dead elephants.

Despite the 1989 international ban on the trade in ivory, 20,000 elephants are slaughtered each year to supply the demand of the illegal ivory trade.

China and Japan, both of which have thriving illegal ivory markets, have been approved as trading partners for this ivory.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)'s Elephants Programme Director, and former director of Kenya Wildlife Service, Michael Wamithi, said: “Allowing this exorbitant amount of ivory to flood the market, considering the level of elephant poaching occurring today, is just plain irresponsible.”

“Rangers on the front line in elephant range states continue to lose their lives protecting elephants from poaching,” continued Wamithi. “Developing countries persistently bear the brunt of escalating Asian markets. By permitting legal trade in ivory, we are only encouraging the laundering of illicit ivory, thereby increasing illegal hunting activities by poachers. The situation is very clear, more ivory in the marketplace equals many more dead elephants and rangers.”

A year ago, at the 14th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties, approval was given for a nine-year suspension of the international trade in ivory. This trade ban is due to come into effect after these stockpiles sales are completed.

“This impending moratorium on international ivory trade is a critical make or break time for the future of elephants. It is a vital opportunity for the UK Government and international community to focus time and energy on elephant conservation initiatives,” said Robbie Marsland, Director, IFAW UK. “The UK government, as a representative of the EU, approved these sales to China, so must now take responsibility to ensure that elephants do not suffer as a result of this decision. Investment in law enforcement and anti-poaching measures, together with more robust monitoring of trends in poaching and illicit trade, must be developed and implemented if we want to succeed in protecting elephant populations in Africa and Asia for coming generations.”

In 1989, CITES Parties listed the African elephant on Appendix I, effectively prohibiting all international trade in elephant products, including ivory.  However, in 1997 certain populations were down-listed to Appendix II, allowing trade with special permissions from CITES. These sales will be the second time in nearly two decades that the international sale in ivory has been authorised since the initial ban.


Notes to Editors: Still images and broadcast quality archive video are available of elephants, poaching, rangers and ivory.

The total amounts being auctioned are: Botswana ~44K kg; Namibia ~9K kg; South Africa ~51K kg; and Zimbabwe ~4K kg.

Last week, global online auction platform eBay Inc. announced a ban on all trade in elephant ivory over their Web sites, effective from 1 January 2009.  This decision followed a recent investigation by IFAW that revealed the massive scope and scale of the illegal wildlife trade on the Internet.

To learn more about the critical elephant ivory issue, and to take action to save elephants, visit: today.                            

Post a comment

Press Contact

Amanda Gent (IFAW UK)
Contact phone:
020 7587 6765
Contact mobile:
07747 567635
Contact email: