Gabon’s Ivory Goes Up in Smoke

Burning ivory, Kenya, July 2011

In a dramatic statement of principle, the Central African nation of Gabon today burnt its 4.8 tonne elephant ivory stockpile - a move which has been widely applauded by the international conservation community.  The Born Free Foundation believes this landmark gesture by Gabon sends a clear and unambiguous message to the criminal networks involved in international wildlife crime: that illegal trading in elephant ivory will no longer be tolerated.

“This is a momentous day for Gabon and speaks volumes about the seriousness of the elephant poaching situation today” said Will Travers OBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Born Free Foundation.  “I hope that Gabon’s decisive action will alert consumers of ivory in China, decision-makers in Brussels and those who believe the ivory trade should be legalised, to the hard truth - that demand is wiping out Africa’s elephants”.

Wildlife trade analysts described 2011 as an annus horribilis for the African elephant and many experts now believe poaching stands at its highest level for 20 years.  Last week, a report submitted to CITES (the 175 nations that have ratified the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), identified China as the primary destination for this illicit trade.

Ian Redmond OBE, Wildlife Consultant to the Born Free Foundation exclaimed: “Gabon’s ivory bonfire (a true bonfire of the vanities, given the uses to which ivory is put) sends a clear signal to the world – the ivory trade must end.  Why is this so important?   Because the elephant is not only an icon of African wildlife and culture.  They are also widely viewed as a super-keystone species or “mega-gardeners of the forest”.   Their role as seed dispersal agents and landscape gardeners is critical to the health of their forest, and their forests are in turn critical to global climate stability.”

EU Member States, including the UK, have previously misguidedly supported ivory trade to China, fuelling the current poaching epidemic. Born Free is calling on the EU to listen to the voice of Africa, to support Gabon in its efforts and condemn illegal trade in ivory.  “The EU has an opportunity to denounce China’s involvement in the illegal trade in ivory at a CITES meeting this July” stated Will Travers. “It’s essential that, given China’s insatiable appetite for ivory, its ‘ivory trading nation’ status be revoked and that the UK and those responsible for disastrous past decisions contribute to the African Elephant Fund, designed specifically to support the priority elephant conservation actions identified by every single African country where wild elephants roam wild and free.” 

To call for an end to ivory trading sign the petition and to help fund anti-poaching teams who protect elephants please donate here

Kenya hosted the burning of almost 5 tonnes of seized ivory in July 2011; see here for details. 

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