The Dust Settles on Elephant and Ivory Discussions

During the first half of March, delegates from countries party to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) met in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss the impacts of trade on elephants, tigers, rhinos, sharks, pangolins, manta rays and much more. The Born Free team was there doing its utmost to urge precaution, encouraging less not more trade.

Halfway through the meeting we gave a progress report on how things were faring in discussions on elephants and their ivory. Although such discussions are sometimes technical and always complex, now that the dust has settled we can review some of the main decisions which have come out of the meeting.

1. The African Elephant Action Plan: The blueprint plan for the species’ survival across the continent was reaffirmed. With some amendments, a Resolution proposed by Nigeria and Rwanda was adopted, resulting in a commitment to implement the Plan as a long-term goal within CITES.  More on the Plan here.

2. Decision-Making Mechanism for a Process of Trade in Ivory: Although many cannot believe there are discussions on trading in ivory during a time of such severe elephant poaching, in 2010 CITES was tasked with establishing a process for ivory trade, should future ivory sales be authorized. However, at this meeting it was agreed that further discussion would be delayed until the next major CITES meeting in 2016. Also, the breadth of consultation was widened, so that this will now include ALL African and Asian countries with elephants, and take place in both French and English. 

3. DNA analysis of Illegal Ivory: Countries seizing ivory shipments greater than 500kg have been directed to submit samples from each such seizure for DNA analysis, allowing the origin of this ivory to be established. In this way, a clearer picture can emerge as to the area where elephants are being killed and therefore help to identify and hopefully protect the more vulnerable populations being targeted by poachers.

4. National Ivory Action Plans: Eight source, transit and consumer countries (China, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam) were identified as requiring concrete plans aimed at reducing illegal trade in ivory. These countries will need to submit their plans by May 2013 and any actions arising are to be carried out by July 2014, when CITES meets again.

5. Personal and Household Effects: Individuals can claim their hunting trophies are ‘personal and household effects’ and therefore exempt from CITES regulations covering restrictions or bans in the movement of such items across international borders. It is believed that significant amounts of elephant ivory get through based on this loophole and at this meeting, it was agreed that rhino horn and elephant ivory contained in hunting trophies would no longer qualify for this exemption.

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