African Elephant Summit – Where to Next?

archive photo © IFAW
Tuesday, 24 March, 2015
Cape Town, South Africa

With the spotlight now on tomorrow’s conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Kasane, Botswana conservationists said while that Monday’s African Elephant Summit had shown significant progress by some countries, notably African countries to address the elephant crisis, there appeared to be glaring differences in the commitment by others to halt the killing of elephants and illegal ivory trade.

Yesterday, representatives from about 20 countries, gathered to take stock of pledges made by them in December 2013 to put in place urgent measures to save elephants from a crises that sees up to 50,000 elephants a year being poached for their ivory. During the meeting the IUCN said the African elephant population currently stood at 470,000 down from 550,000 in 2006.

“It was impressive to see the efforts many African countries have put into addressing legislative reforms, focusing on law enforcement skills, working at an inter-agency level to wipe out illegal trade and trafficking and improve their management of ivory stockpiles; and the support they are getting from countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands to achieve their goals,” said Jason Bell, Director of the IFAW Elephant Programme.

 “Disappointing was the lack of focus on the need to reduce demand for ivory in China, the largest consumer nation and Thailand, the second most problematic consumer nation, didn’t attend the meeting. Poaching of elephants is spreading primarily as a result of rising demand for ivory in the rapidly growing economies of
Asia, particularly China and Thailand, so the need to reduce that demand is key.

“It was also telling to see that only four of the eight countries identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as being most problematic for illegal ivory trade attended. The important transit countries of Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines didn’t show despite being invited,” said Bell.

Tomorrow the Kasane Conference on The Illegal Wildlife Trade, will gather heads of State at a high level pow-wow to review progress made by the 41 signatories to the London Declaration of 2014 which acknowledged the scale of illegal wildlife trade and recognized that poaching and trafficking of wildlife undermined the law and was linked to corruption and organized crime, and how they intended to end it.

“Political pressure is essential if we are to win the fight against wildlife crime, which is decimating elephants, rhinos, tigers and other endangered wildlife,” said Michael Wamithi, Advisor to IFAW’s Elephant and Wildlife Trade Programmes, speaking from Kasane.

“The battle to end elephant poaching and illegal trafficking has to take place on all fronts – from source, to transit to consumer nations – the none-arrival yesterday of countries which form a key part of the ivory trafficking chain speaks to a lack of commitment to ending the crisis.

“What we want to see tomorrow is the assurance from all countries, not just some, that they will use these high-level meetings for some frank discussions and decisions that will lead to concrete changes to save wildlife. And pressure put on those countries which aren’t doing enough to engage more fully,” said Wamithi.

The number of poached rhinos has soared in the past year, with South Africa losing a record 1,215 rhino in 2014 – a 21 per cent increase over 2013, while elephants around the world continue to be slaughtered in their tens of thousands to feed the illegal ivory trade.

As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.

The 2013 IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal wildlife trade poses to elephants, rhinos and people.

To combat this deadly illegal trade, IFAW trains law enforcement officers – more than 2,600 to date -- in wildlife trafficking prevention in  source, transit and consumer countries throughout the world. The organization collaborates with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, regional law enforcement bodies and national wildlife law enforcement agencies.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com.

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