- Requests from Zambia and Tanzania to hold one-off sales of their ivory stockpiles failed during a CITES species trade meeting today. Inreased illegal ivory sales and poaching during the last years led to the rejection.
The decision was made at the UN's Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) annual meeting, this year in Doha, today. Zambia and Tanzania were met with a rejection of most states participating in the CITES meeting.
The proposals made by Tanzania and Zambia were to relax trade restrictions on their elephant populations by moving them from Appendix I – the highest level of protection under the Convention banning all international commercial trade – to Appendix II. The two countries had also initially, asked in addition to their downlisting requests, that they be able to hold a one-off sale of their ivory stockpiles.
No commercial ivory sale is permitted if their elephants remain in Appendix I, but are possible with the Appendix II listing, which allows some regulated international commercial trade.
But neither country was given permission to sell their ivory at this stage or relax trade controls on their elephant populations. The decisions come amid a poaching crisis destroying elephant populations in Asia and Africa.
A key report, influencing the vote against Zambia and Tanzania, had been presented delegates by the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). The report found that the illicit trade in ivory, which has been increasing in volume since 2004, moved sharply upward in 2009.
According to the report by ETIS, the world's largest database on ivory seizures, there continues to be a highly significant correlation between large-scale domestic ivory markets in Asia and Africa and poor law enforcement, suggesting that illicit ivory trade flows typically follow a path to destinations where law enforcement is weak and markets function with little regulatory impediment.
Today's decisions also follow the release last week of a new analysis of elephant trade data showing that coordinated enforcement in Central and West Africa and South-east Asia was crucial to addressing the illicit ivory trade.
Governments rejected Tanzania's downlisting and ivory sales request. They also voted against Zambia's request to move their elephant populations off Appendix I – a decision which came despite an amendment by Zambia to remove the request for a one-off sale of their ivory stockpiles from their original proposal.
The decision was welcomed by enironmentalists. "While the issue of whether sales should be allowed to proceed or not has dominated much of the discussions here in Qatar, WWF and TRAFFIC believe the key driving force behind the ongoing elephant poaching is the continued existence of illegal domestic ivory markets across parts of Africa and Asia," said Steven Broad of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Poaching and illegal ivory markets in central and western Africa must be effectively suppressed before any further ivory sales take place," added Elisabeth McLellan of WWF International.
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