Massive Ivory Bust Adds To Conservationists' Fears For The Species

Born Free Calls for Urgent Help for Elephants Under Threat.

Just less than four weeks after Doha (Qatar) hosted the 15th Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) where proposals to relax the rules on ivory trade were soundly rejected, Thai authorities have seized 296 tusks at Bangkok International Airport, on an inbound flight from Qatar – the host nation for the CITES meeting!

According to reports in the Straits Times, the tusks weigh in at a staggering 1,390 kgs and represent the last mortal remains of at least 148 elephants.  

“It’s an ongoing tragedy” said Will Travers, CEO, Born Free Foundation, the international wildlife charity that has been battling the ivory trade for the last 20 years.  “When I was at the CITES meeting just a few weeks ago, delegate after delegate told me of the challenges they face right across Africa in protecting their elephants from the ravages of poachers and international wildlife crime.  Clearly, there is an urgent need for additional resources to be devoted to the protection of elephants.  It is extraordinarily ironic that this latest shipment of illegal ivory was routed from Africa to Thailand through Qatar.”

Demand for ivory is at levels not seen for decades, with some conservation experts estimating that in 2009 as many as 36,000 elephants were killed and over 20,000kg of ivory seized.  The price of raw illegal ivory is also sky-rocketing, hitting in excess of US$ 1,500 per kg.  

Travers continued: “The fate of elephants was made even more precarious in 2008 when the CITES Standing Committee, which includes representatives of the UK government, approved China as a Trading Partner for the sale of 106 tonnes of stock-piled ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.  UK Ministers and officials made the decision with the misplaced belief that those sales would satisfy demand.  The effect was exactly the opposite.  More ivory shops opened in China and demand has been stimulated, leading to increased pressure on some of Africa’s most fragile elephant populations.”  

Since 2007, Kenya has suffered a 400% increase in elephant poaching, and in the last four years the Central African country of Tchad has lost more than 80% of its elephants.

The Born Free Foundation is calling on the conservation community and those countries, including the UK, that have, in the Foundation’s view, contributed to the current perilous situation, to step up and provide additional resources for elephant protection as a matter of extreme urgency.  

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