Hello readers, it’s Paula here at 5.30 am and I can’t sleep – alarm bells are ringing in my head about ivory trade and elephant killings.
Here’s the time line
Mid 2007 online ivory sales reported to be booming
June 2007 CITES meeting…Kenya porposes a 20 year moratorium on ivory sales, supported by 21 “like-minded parties” including Mali, Ghana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Togo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Liberia, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville and Cote d’Ivoire. Ivory sales get go ahead at CITES with blessing of major conservation organizations
“This African solution to an African problem marks a great step forward for wildlife conservation,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. “It is good news for the elephant, good news for the people who live alongside them and good news for regional cooperation in Africa.”
“We are looking for real conservation achievement on the ground,” said Tom Milliken, of TRAFFIC, director of TRAFFIC South and East Africa. “Let countries now take this spirit of goodwill and tackle the ivory that is being hemorrhaged illegally from West and Central Africa.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, says that at least 20,000 elephants are killed annually for their ivory and the lives of about 100 rangers are lost each year protecting them. They warn that the auctions would stimulate Asian markets demand smuggling and poaching.
The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis reveals that key problem countries for illegal ivory are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Thailand and China.
Nobody takes any notice
October 2008 Namibia opens bidding in controversial ivory auction
Renowned conservationist Richard Leakey expresses concern and calls it a disservice to conservation
November 2008 Ivory auctions take place in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe 100 tons sold raising $15 million. Price? $150 per kg.
November 2008 57 people arrested and one ton of illegal ivory seized in a sweep of 50 locations in Kenya, Congo Brazaville, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.
January 2009 Ebay bans ivory on online auctions
Three months after auctions, Kenya reports alarming increase in elephant poaching 98 killed in 2008 vs 48 the year before. Two poachers are arrested by KWS. Five elephants killed in February. British MP’s raises alarm over increase in poaching.
Conservation groups blame demand in China for runaway elephant killings
February 2009 Despite fear of reprisals, Cynthia Moss of the Amboseli Elephant Trust reports a surge in elephant killings and decries the lack of government response.
February 2009 Jane Goodall adds her voice to the role of China in plundering Africa’s resources.
February 2009 Legal auctions were supposed to depress illegal prices right? Wrong! TRAFFIC and WWF report ivory prices in Vietnam are highest in the world at $1500 – $1,863/kg more than ten times the value of legal ivory sold in November 2008! The few remaining Asian elephants are now at grave risk.
March 2008 Vietnam seize over 7 tons of ivory from Tanzania and plans to auction it. Why is nobody questioning this?
China deny’s any link or responsibility for increasing poaching and ivory seizure and publish the Chinese official position piece in local newspapers
Report from Therese Hart in DR Congo reveals that elephants down by 80% in last 50 years.
Why can’t I sleep?
My problem with all this is that CITES is supposed to uphold the precautionary principle. Obviously warnings in 2008 were well placed but there seems to be nobody doing anything about the escalating illegal ivory sales, elephant killings and ivory laundering. Where is the voice of TRAFFIC, WWF, AWF, FFI…all the organizations that were born and or grew out of the elephant crisis in the 1980s? They all supported the ivory sales and none of them seem to be willing to admit it was a MASSIVE STUPID MISTAKE and that measures must be taken now to reverse the impact.
How many more elephants do we have to lose before we have the courage to admit that it was a mistake to renew ivory trade? It is obvious that the flood of legal trade has created a wonderful opportunity for illegal ivory to be laundered, and demand and prices are so high in Vietnam that officials are obviously being corrupted, and countries are taking the law in to their own hands (Vietnam is planning to auction ivory seized from Tanzania!)
CITES will claim that the 9 year moratorium on further auctions will prevent further growth in demand or release of ivory onto markets. The truth that nobody is talking about, is that the moratorium only applies to four countries…I predict that at the next CITES conference we will see ivory sale proposals from a number of African countries including Tanzania, DR Congo, Uganda and maybe even Kenya! These countries are not bound by the moratorium.
Grrr…it makes me so mad. What do you think? How can we get a message out?