China-US Ivory Ban Sends Important Signal to Consumers: UNEP Deputy Executive Director


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After China and the US recently declared a joint commitment to enact a nearly complete ban on ivory imports and exports, CRI’s Nairobi correspondent interviewed Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the ivory ban.

The China-US statement on ivory ban, announced on September 26, 2015, says:
“The two sides, recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, commit to take positive measures to address this global challenge. China and the United States commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory. The two sides agreed to further cooperate in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing and public education on combating wildlife trafficking, and enhance international law enforcement cooperation in this field. China and the United States agree to cooperate with other nations in a comprehensive effort to combat wildlife trafficking.”
Thiaw appreciated the China-US ivory ban. He said the two nations are very important countries in the world and they also have political leverage in their respective spheres. When they implement the ivory ban, they will also set examples for other countries in fighting Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) activities, said Thiaw.
At the same time, the ban is also a signal sent out by the two biggest ivory markets in the world. By enacting domestic trade restrictions, the two governments will align domestic legislation with the international ban, making the framework clear to ivory buyers.
Scientists say all species of nature are crucial for the ecosystem. Once a species disappears, all the other species connected with it face more serious threats of extinction. Therefore, the human society will also be affected inevitably.
Gangs that commit IWT activities roam through different countries and kill wildlife, like elephants, and cut off their ivories. Then they use the ivories to change for ammunition. They usually use the wildlife they catch as currencies to exchange what they want.
According to National Geographic, Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony from Uganda and his criminal gangs have been killing elephants for ivories in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2006. He has said he wanted ivories for ammunition to keep fighting.
In another example, the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab depends on trafficking charcoals, earning almost 50 million US dollars every year to support their terrorist activities.
Thiaw said these IWT criminals, who are damaging the ecosystem and threatening people’s lives, are also stealing tens of billions of US dollars from developing countries annually in revenues. While the money can be invested in the construction of infrastructure and education medical care and solve unemployment.
In addition, there are no sanitary inspections for wildlife involved in the IWT activities, so people who touch or trade wildlife may get infected easily. Like in the bush meat trade, many sellers and buyers were infected with Ebola.
In some countries where poaching is common, rangers are usually not well-equipped. Poachers with much more advanced weapons can enter the reserves and kill the rangers and animals easily.
Thiaw also explained what role UNEP plays in fighting IWT. He said the UNEP is playing a leading role in the global response to tackle wildlife crimes. Thiaw said the organization alerted the world to prevent IWT activities in the very early years. It keeps working closely with its member states and involving their environmental ministers in discussions to implement related policies. It helps its member states to improve their legislations and to put on tougher fights against IWT. They also work towards decreasing the demand for wildlife, and their final aim is to close the door on IWT.