Elephants At Risk Again

After today’s decision by the Standing Committee of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to approve China as a ‘trading partner’ for over 100 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the illegal black market for ‘white gold’ looks like it might cause elephant blood to run red in Africa again. Quite a few conservationists and wildlife managers have been shocked.

A CEO of the Born Free Foundation and President of the Species Survival Network, Will Travers said, “Unbelievable, naive, and deadly.” My opinion is that approval of China is like pouring petrol on an open fire. It was bad enough when Japan was approved to trade with Japan over a year ago.

We shouldn’t have approved China for a bunch of reasons:

  • There aren’t enough trade controls and internal law enforcement

  • There’s a steady stream of illegal ivory shipments going to China.

  • Chinese nationals are increasingly getting involved in ivory trafficking in Africa

  • There’s been continued poaching of elephants (between 20,000 and 25,000 animals a year)

  • Poached Sumatran ivory tusks are worth 300% more than they were in 2005, according to reports.

  • In 36 countries where elephants live, only a few have robust and significant herds (out of the 48 countries that have elephants)

Chinese and Japanese bidders will push up the price of ivory and cause poaching and smuggling. The ivory stockpiles face a lot of challenges and threats. The Standing Committee of CITES meets in Geneva, where Travers said China and Japan are bidding against each other. Many elephant lovers are going to be shocked that WWF and others supported the approval of China as a trading partner. Born Free and the SSN have been exposing huge elephant poaching levels for the past decade. CITES banned ivory trade in 1989, so SSN and other conservation groups have consistently argued against it being relaxed. There are about 475,000-500,000 elephants in the world today. Asian elephants are estimated at 30,000-40,000.

Editor’s Notes:

  • The ivory trade in China continues to be a major destination for poached elephant ivory, which shows a lack of control;

  • The import of legal ivory will make it easier to launder illegal ivory into China’s market, which will lead to more elephant poaching. Because MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants) isn’t sensitive enough to detect and report on poaching that happens as a result of this sale, it can’t provide the fast response mechanism as originally intended. After ivory is exported, there’s no way to “recall” it. This export won’t make an impact on elephant poaching for years and it won’t be reversible.

  • Despite a registration system that appears to be abused and manipulated by traders, market surveys in China have found massive amounts of illegal ivory being sold (ref EIA 2007, IFAW 2006).

  • Dozens of companies involved in illicit ivory trade have been legalized by the Chinese government (ref EIA 2007).

  • The EIA found registered traders buying and selling ivory to illegal dealers and illegally exporting ivory (EIA, 2007).

  • Chinese authorities auctioned off ivory confiscated from elephant poaching, undermining RC 9.10 (Rev. It’s own efforts to crack down on illegal trade and disposal of illegally traded, confiscated and accumulated specimens are undercut by RC 9.10 (Rev. CoP14). There were no irregularities found in ivory in the stores in only one city that the Secretariat mission examined, but that doesn’t mean the auction didn’t happen. It’s still a big deal to SSN.

  • There haven’t been any surveys on ivory availability or government controls in most of China’s 20 biggest cities.

  • It’s not always true that seizures suspected to be headed to China are actually seized there, but rather while they’re on their way.

  • Many of these items were reportedly carved recently in and imported from China, according to a survey of ivory markets in the US (Martin and Stiles, 2008).

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About the author

Alex Jones

Alex Jones is a tech-savvy editor at World-Wire, renowned for his expertise in writing detailed technical articles and user-friendly how-to guides. With a background in Information Technology, he excels in demystifying complex tech topics. His work is highly valued for its accuracy and practicality, earning him awards like "Innovator in Tech Journalism" in 2023. Alex's role at World-Wire is pivotal in making technology accessible to a broad audience.

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