Geneva, Switzerland—The Species Survival Network (SSN), a global coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations dedicated to safeguarding wildlife from international trade, welcomed today’s judgment by delegates to the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to uphold the current suspension of international ivory trade. The Committee’s important decision to prevent renewed ivory sales was made in the face of significant pressure from those vested interests that stand to profit most from ivory sales.
Will Travers, SSN President, advocated a precautionary approach to elephant conservation. “We always encourage government delegates to learn from conservation mistakes throughout history so that we do not repeat them,” he said from the meeting in Geneva. “CITES delegates remember all-too-well the carnage of the 1970s and 1980s, when poached elephant carcasses unceremoniously littered the African savannah. Sound science and current data strongly suggest that renewed ivory trade could bring us perilously close to reviving the onslaught.”
However, the Committee’s decision to designate Japan as an importing country for potential future sales was widely criticized. Although many concerns were voiced at the meeting with regard to Japan’s ability to control its domestic ivory market, the Committee relented and used an endorsement of Japan as a compromise. This will surely send out a mixed message, potentially encouraging elephant poaching and ivory stockpiling for future sale.
Committee members were asked to consider a new report published by MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants), a field-based programme that was established to provide conclusive evidence that the levels of illegal elephant poaching were sufficiently low to permit renewed trade. “Monitoring what is happening to wild elephants across Africa and Asia is an enormously complex process and the results so far do not provide an adequate or reliable picture.” Travers concluded.
The Standing Committee determined that the baseline data prepared by MIKE did not meet the stated criteria. Data are still incomplete for six different study sites in Southeast Asia, for instance, and new data are not expected until some time in 2007. Standing Committee delegates also expressed concern over reported increases in ivory seizures, suggesting an increase in illegal activity surrounding the ivory trade, and called for increased wildlife law enforcement capacity to prevent illegal ivory trade.
“After years of work and millions of dollars invested in the MIKE process we had hoped for and expected a far more robust and effective document,” Travers added. “We question whether CITES Parties should be willing to invest a further $12 million between 2007 and 2011, in the context of MIKE’s lack of success to date, and which may simply lead to a scenario that allows once more the sale of ivory trinkets as tourist souvenirs. Investing that money on anti-poaching and field-based wildlife conservation efforts could achieve more significant benefits for wild elephants.”
SSN believes that the entire MIKE process should be evaluated and where necessary reformed and streamlined before further funds are deployed for its operation or any ivory trade proposals are considered by CITES Parties. MIKE should be removed from the CITES umbrella and undertaken in an independent manner to provide all those who care about the future of elephants with the best possible data on which to make their future decisions.
SSN and the Born Free Foundation’s Ivory Trade Report
SSN’s Recommendations to the 54th Meeting of
the CITES Standing Committee
SSN comments on SC54 Doc. 26. (Rev.1) on
MIKE Baseline Information