Michael Wamithi, global elephants program manager for IFAW
stating, "The recent decision by CITES [Convention on the International
Trade of Endangered Species] Conference of the Parties in June to approve
nearly a decade-long suspension of trade in elephant ivory is not enough.
Consumer demand is booming, and domestic trade is out of control. Until
this is addressed, we will not see an end to the bloodshed."
On January 20th, Namibian officials seized 13 elephant tusks, totaling
nearly 200 kg of ivory, and representing seven dead elephants. Three
suspects are under arrest and pending charges. Meanwhile, further east in
Zimbabwe, police arrested 11 suspected poachers, who are believed to have
killed 15 elephants within two weeks in Hwange National Park. Similarly, in
Cameroon, CRTV (Cameroon Radio Television) reports that a poaching network
has been disbanded in the south, with a confiscation of 20 tusks.
"We must consider the breadth of this issue. The problem is not merely
in Africa -- past incidences have indicated China is the most likely final
destination for illegal ivory. This side of the issue must be recognized
and tackled. We must do everything in our power to halt their obtainment of
pending ivory stockpiles," says Wamithi of the huge stockpile sales
looming. The CITES Standing Committee will meet in July 2008 to determine
the acceptance of China as a trading partner. Japan has already been
"Rampant trade in Asia is much to blame for the continued violence,"
Wamithi states unwaveringly. "It is clearly an unfair equation, with the
wealth of China and Japan in contrast to poor African nations. Elephant
range states undoubtedly lack the resources to protect themselves against
consumer demand, and it our duty to step in and mitigate such inequities.
The first step is rejecting China as a trading partner."
It would be difficult to tell from recent happenings that just this
past summer a decision was made to implement a "resting period" with no new
trade proposals permitted for a period of nine years (after stockpile sales
go through). Recent events have made it clear that by no means has this
halted the slaughter of endangered elephants.
Just a few months ago, in October 2007, 93.9 kg (207 lbs) of elephant
ivory was confiscated in Zambia. And, again, a few days later, 22 tusks
were seized in Zimbabwe. Also, in that same week, a man in British Columbia
was prosecuted for illegally importing 30,000 pieces of African elephant
ivory. These are just a few of the numerous cases of ivory trade
interceptions; Customs authorities estimate that only 10 per cent of
contraband is caught in transit.
In both 2005 and 2006, IFAW conducted investigations into China's ivory
trade regulations. Such reports concluded that domestic trade control
mechanisms in China are far from adequate and it is impossible to ensure
that continued trade in ivory will not negatively impact African and Asian