Bonfire of the Vanities


In an effort to draw the world’s attention to the impact of poaching on Africa’s elephants, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force will host the burning of 5 tonnes of seized ivory in Tsavo National Park on Wednesday 20th July. 

The ivory, which originated in Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania, was confiscated during a notorious 2002 seizure in Singapore.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, explained the importance of the ivory burn: "Reports of elephant poaching and ivory seizures are becoming an almost a daily occurrence.  The bloody, corrupt and merciless ivory trade that precipitated the slaughter of 600,000 African elephants during the 1970s and 1980s is sadly booming across Africa again.”

Data collated by Born Free reveals that in the last six months more than 10,500 kilogrammes of ivory has been seized by customs and police officials. That's the last mortal remains of more than 1,700 elephants. Seizures have been made in Thailand, Vietnam, Mozambique, China, Kenya and Portugal. One seizure in Guangxi Province, China in April 2011, for instance, included 707 elephant tusks, 32 ivory bracelets, and a rhino horn.

Born Free Foundation Wildlife Trade Specialist Shelley Waterland flew from England to Kenya to witness the ivory burn first-hand, along with co-hosts the Kenya Wildlife Service. Ms. Waterland declared: “Let the fire shine a spotlight on this growing crisis and motivate us to take action against the bloody ivory trade – no more sales of stockpiled ivory; no more tusks sold for a staggering $1,500 a kilo; no more rangers and wardens killed by poachers trying to protect wild elephants; no more ivory orphans. The last major ivory burn in Kenya marked the beginning of the ivory trade ban (in 1989).  Poaching is now so bad because that life-saving ban has been eroded by ‘one-off’ sales and the development of trading mechanisms, both of which send entirely the wrong message to poaching networks and the organised crime syndicates that operate them.  My message from Kenya is clear - the ivory ban must be reinstated in full and we must increase our wildlife law-enforcement effort.

The global trade in elephant ivory is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and is monitored specifically by its Standing Committee. Travers concluded: “Born Free is calling on the UK and other members of the CITES Standing Committee to withdraw ‘approved ivory trading nation’ status from China and Japan and to re-impose a full global ivory trade ban. Only then will the message be clear, will the poachers realise they have nowhere to hide, will the enforcement agencies and customs authorities be able to act with certainty… and will the world’s wild elephants stand a fighting chance.” The Standing Committee next meets in Geneva 15-19 August 2011.

With an estimated 35,000 elephants a year killed for their ivory, and between 400,000 and 500,000 elephants left across the African Continent, the Born Free Foundation has declared the situation critical and is concerned that without immediate and resolute action, elephants face a bleak future.

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