(Doha)–CITES Parties voting in Doha, Qatar today rebuffed a move by Tanzania to sell off more than 89 tonnes of stockpiled ivory to China and Japan. The vote sent a strong message that the Parties want a resting period from consideration of trade in elephant ivory in order to allow them to undertake the important work of examining the plight of other wild species at risk from international trade.
“This is an important decision that will reverberate across the African continent,” declared Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network and CEO of the Born Free Foundation. “However, we must await further debates related to a similar proposal from Zambia – seeking ivory trade – and Proposal 6 sponsored by Mali, Kenya, Rwanda, and others, which seeks to confirm that there will be no ivory trade or diminution of current levels of CITES protection for Africa’s elephants. Will this be enough to keep the species out of the firing line?”
In a last ditch effort to grab votes, Tanzania split in two its proposal to weaken international protection for its elephants in trade: “downlist” from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow for trade in elephant trophies, live animals, non-commercial elephant products; and downlist with a sale of the ivory stockpile. Tanzania failed to achieve the 2/3 majority needed to downlist its elephants by a vote of 57 in favor, 45 opposed, and 32 abstentions. The downlisting with ivory trade proposal failed to receive even a simple majority: 59 in favor, 60 opposed, and 13 abstentions.
Significant evidence was presented during the meeting, challenging Tanzania’s elephant management and law enforcement capabilities with respect to elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade. In fact, much of the more than more than 20 tonnes of elephant ivory seized in 2009 originated in Tanzania, according to forensic analysis of the confiscated contraband.
“There is no question that the mere hint of ivory trade at CITES meetings sends a message to elephant poachers and ivory profiteers that the ivory market is open for business,” Travers continued. “This is not in the best interest of elephant conservation. African nations – especially those with fragile elephant populations and underfunded wildlife law enforcement agencies – need to get on with the important business of elephant conservation.”