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.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
2. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species appendices are lists of animals and plants afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.
3. Appendix I lists those species deemed most endangered. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, such as for scientific research, when trade may be allowed if authorised by both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate).
4. Appendix II lists species not necessarily threatened with extinction at present but which may become so unless trade is closely controlled. International trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix II may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary under CITES. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.
5. Appendix III lists species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of Appendix III species is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates.
6. Species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and Appendix II, or moved between them, only by the Conference of the Parties, either at its regular meetings or by postal procedures.
7. Read and download EIA’s Open Season report at https://eia-international.org/?p=2322
8. Read and download EIA’s Blood Ivory briefing at https://eia-international.org/?p=5133
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