Ivory trade continues its reach across myriad African nations

Tuesday, 29 January, 2008
Nairobi, Kenya
Ivory smugglers nabbed, a poaching network dismantled, and hundreds of kilograms of ivory seized. And so it goes for a week in the world of today’s elephant ivory market.
Michael Wamithi, global elephants program manager for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org), responds stating, “The recent decision by CITES [Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species] Conference of the Parties in June to approve nearly a decade-long suspension of trade in elephant ivory is not enough. Consumer demand is booming, and domestic trade is out of control. Until this is addressed, we will not see an end to the bloodshed.”
On January 20th, Namibian officials seized 13 elephant tusks, totaling nearly 200 kg of ivory, and representing seven dead elephants. Three suspects are under arrest and pending charges. Meanwhile, further east in Zimbabwe, police arrested 11 suspected poachers, who are believed to have killed 15 elephants within two weeks in Hwange National Park. Similarly, in Cameroon, CRTV (Cameroon Radio Television) reports that a poaching network has been disbanded in the south, with a confiscation of 20 tusks.
“We must consider the breadth of this issue. The problem is not merely in Africa –past incidences have indicated China is the most likely final destination for illegal ivory. This side of the issue must be recognized and tackled. We must do everything in our power to halt their obtainment of pending ivory stockpiles,” says Wamithi of the huge stockpile sales looming. The CITES Standing Committee will meet in July 2008 to determine the acceptance of China as a trading partner. Japan has already been approved.
“Rampant trade in Asia is much to blame for the continued violence,” Wamithi states unwaveringly. “It is clearly an unfair equation, with the wealth of China and Japan in contrast to poor African nations. Elephant range states undoubtedly lack the resources to protect themselves against consumer demand, and it our duty to step in and mitigate such inequities. The first step is rejecting China as a trading partner.”
It would be difficult to tell from recent happenings that just this past summer a decision was made to implement a “resting period” with no new trade proposals permitted for a period of nine years (after stockpile sales go through). Recent events have made it clear that by no means has this halted the slaughter of endangered elephants.
Just a few months ago, in October 2007, 93.9 kg (207 lbs) of elephant ivory was confiscated in Zambia. And, again, a few days later, 22 tusks were seized in Zimbabwe. Also, in that same week, a man in British Columbia was prosecuted for illegally importing 30,000 pieces of African elephant ivory. These are just a few of the numerous cases of ivory trade interceptions; Customs authorities estimate that only 10 per cent of contraband is caught in transit.
In both 2005 and 2006, IFAW conducted investigations into China’s ivory trade regulations. Such reports concluded that domestic trade control mechanisms in China are far from adequate and it is impossible to ensure that continued trade in ivory will not negatively impact African and Asian elephant populations.

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