The United States announced a $1.8million injection towards South Africa to assist law enforcement and help combat wildlife trafficking.
The announcement was made at the US Consulate in Sandton, Johannesburg as the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora is in full swing at the Sandton Convention Centre.
Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe says, “When we think of the demand of the illegal trade of ivory, we think of the Asian demand, however, the demand is the US is contributing to criminal trade.”
“We have seen several cases in the US where we’ve arrested people who are bringing in new ivory and they’re making it look like old ivory so that they can sell it and so they are incorporating it into antiques.”
Two years ago the US prosecuted an antique dealer who until today is in jail.
In 2015, the US crushed 1 ton of ivory confiscated. Ashe says the US will always destroy ivory as it is contraband (goods that have been imported or exported illegally) and will never be sold back into the market no matter the amount of money the selling of it could bring in.
“You can compare it to drug enforcement, when you confiscate drugs and you can sell it and make money from it, but it’s illegal, it’s contraband and we don’t sell contraband. We don’t want it back into the market.”
Ashe says, “We also destroy ivory to raise awareness as you have an opportunity to reach millions of people with a very simple message; elephants are being driven into extinction. We value ivory on living elephants in the wild more than we value trinkets that are made from their ivory.”
CITES is an international agreement between governments. Australian born, CITES Secretary General John E. Scanlon says its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES meets once every 3 years.
“This is the largest agenda we’ve had in the past 43 years. We’re looking at around 500 species of wild plants and animals and what enforcement measures we can take. We’re also looking at how we can better regulate legal trade and how we can better engage with local and rural communities.”
Scanlon explains that this convention is a legally binding convention and has a real and immediate impact on the ground as it determines what you can and cannot trade.
He says that it’s in our own self-interest to look after animals and plants if we wish to have a decent planet to live on.
“If we don’t have animals and plants left anymore, then we won’t be here either. We are all part of an eco system and if we don’t allow the animals and plants to be part of it then we may as well kiss goodbye to ourselves too.”