The elephant poaching level is alarming and France is a link in the illegal ivory trade. Because of this, the government has decided not to issue permits to export raw ivory outside the Union. Segolene Royal, the Minister of Ecology, took this decision after having been interogated a few days ago by 40 French associations, but also African and Asian, who have found that France was issuing a large number of export permits.
“France in 2013 issued export permits for 116 tusks of African elephants, a record amount, never reached since 1990,” deplored the NGOs.
“In 2014, more than three tons of raw ivory were sold in auction rooms: all of this ivory was bought by foreigners,” warns Robin Hood, an NGO at the forefront in tracking illegal trade in species.
“Under the guise of legal ivory, long lines pass illegal ivory in Asia,” adds Charlotte Nithart, spokeswoman for Robin Hood.
Trade in ivory is strictly regulated since 1990. It must be limited to parts dating from before 1947 and considered antiquities or parts and raw pieces entered into the European Union before 1990. The proof of this prior art on European territory must be provided to obtain a VAT certificate that allows the sale of the coin at auction for example.
But ivory is illegally entering into France, especially via West Africa.
Then, “there is traffic on the certificates,” said Wednesday Ségolène Royal. “There are counterfeit certificates on the one hand and on the other hand real certificates that are diverted and used for recent ivories,” Charlotte Nithart, spokeswoman for Robin Hood, told AFP.
The Ministry figures show a significant increase in issued certificates: 398 in 2014 for sales within the Union (284 in 2012 and 332 in 2013) and 315 for sales outside the Union (54 in 2012 and 93 in 2013).
By banning exports of raw ivory outside the European Union from its territory, France aligns with Germany and the UK. This decision was unanimously praised by NGOs received Wednesday at the Ministry of Ecology, which however will not despair of one day of seeing all ivory trade banned in France.
“I welcome the ban on exports, but I regret that we do not suspend the sale in general,” said Alain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the LPO. He stressed “the link between legal market and illegal exploitation.”
“We defend a ban on all trade in France,” responded Christophe Marie on behalf of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, emphasizing “the apparent contradiction between massive auctions and operations of destruction of ivory sales.”
A year ago, the Government had carried out a spectacular destruction, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, three tons of ivory confiscated during various seizures. “We will continue in 2015 operations of destruction of ivory stocks,” assured Ségolène Royal, pursuant to the commitment of his predecessor Philippe Martin.
The draft law on biodiversity, which should finally arrive to the Assembly in March, will also strengthen sanctions against traffickers of endangered species. Fines will increase from 15,000 to 150,000 euros for single offences and can go up to 750,000 euros to those committed in organized gang.
“France can lead by example,” in the fight against trafficking, said Stéphane Ringuet, expert with WWF.
But according to the specialist, action for hope to save African elephants also involves the fight against poaching and demand, primarily located in Asia, particularly in China. “There is now a real war of ivory, with considerable weapons and dozens of guards killed each year in Africa,” reminded Jacky Abbas of Robin Hood.