Campaign group calls auction & trade plans ‘untimely and ludicrous’
LONDON: Tanzania has formally applied to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for permission to hold a one-off sale of 101 tonnes of stockpiled ivory and to reduce protection for its elephant population.
If the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok next March approves the application to downlist Tanzania’s elephant population from Appendix 1 to the lesser protection of Appendix 2, the African country intends to seek approval for trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes, trade in registered raw ivory (whole tusks and pieces), trade in raw hides including feet, ears and tails, and trade in live animals.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today called the proposal ‘ludicrous’, coming as it does at a time when ivory poaching is escalating and the CITES ivory-trading mechanism itself is increasingly being called into question.
EIA Executive Director and Elephant Campaign head Mary Rice said: “The very system CITES uses to permit so-called ‘one-off’ auctions is profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory.
“It’s ludicrous for Tanzania to even consider applying for permission to cash in on its stockpile – dumping more than 100 tonnes of ivory onto the market will only serve to further confuse consumers as to the legal status of ivory, stimulating fresh demand, spurring the black market and leading to more poaching.
“Parties to CITES need to regain control of the destructive world ivory markets and end the damage done to undermine the 1989 ivory trade ban by firmly vetoing all proposals for ivory sales. They can start by emphatically rejecting Tanzania’s proposal in March, sending out an unequivocal message that all ivory is blood ivory.”
Tanzania last submitted proposals to CITES CoP15 in March 2010 for a sale of 90 tonnes of stockpiled ivory and to downlist its elephant population from Appendix I to Appendix II.
Despite Tanzania’s claim at the time that its elephant population was “secure”, EIA undercover investigations in the country in January and February of 2010 found flourishing trade in illegal ivory at both domestic and international levels, exacerbated by poor enforcement and facilitated by official corruption.
EIA’s investigation showed that the Tanzanian authorities appeared unwilling, or unable, to exercise control of poaching and ivory trafficking and its subsequent report Open Season was a key factor in both proposals being defeated when they were put to the vote at CoP15. It seems very little has changed and, if anything, the situation has worsened.
At a meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva this July, the CITES Secretariat and other expert groups expressed concern that Tanzania remains a key exit point for illegal consignments of ivory. The Secretariat stated: “More large-scale ivory seizures are currently being directed to Asian destinations through Indian Ocean seaports in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania than any other trade route from Africa.”
Interviews are available on request: please contact Mary Rice, at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7354 7960.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1145359) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.