Governments falling down on ivory trade commitments


Deutsche Welle

Date Published


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Governments are failing to fulfill their obligations to submit inventories of ivory stocks. Meanwhile smuggling networks are expanding to meet the illicit demand for elephant tusks in Asia.

Global wildlife conservationists are demanding parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild and Fauna Flora (CITES) comply with wildlife laws.

Authors of a recent released report on the Elephant Wildlife Trade Information System, Traffic, a global network fighting ivory trade, told DW that governments were failing to submit annual reports about ivory stocks.

Tom Milliken, the Elephant and Rhino Program Leader for Traffic, said there had been an expansion of wildlife smuggling networks across Africa in which Chinese and Vietnamese nationals were working with corrupt local officials.

“They are involved in syndicates and moving ivory across Africa and then to Asia.” he said.

He said that cooperation in law enforcement between the countries involved in smuggling the ivory and those where it originated could save elephants from extinction.

“If the governments of China and Vietnam were to station wildlife trade investigators who would work with Africans, we would be able to dismantle the transnational syndicates that are driving the trade.” Milliken said.

The report assessed ivory stockpile reports which showed that twelve parties had managed to submit their inventories in 2014 but that number had fallen to three one year later.

Countries reporting to CITES

In 2014, Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, Japan, Malawi, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Slovakia, Thailand, Uganda and Zambia submitted reports that stated they held no ivory stockpiles.

Five more parties Belgium, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, the European Union and Tanzania submitted reports indicating they had ivory stocks but provided no figures on the status of those inventories.

In 2015, DRC, Namibia and Zimbabwe submitted ivory stock reports with inventory figures. The same year, Germany and Zambia also provided information, which included privately owned stocks.

Over a two year period, these stocks accounted for nearly 459 tons of ivory under the control of 15 parties, private stocks included.

In a reference to the expansion of smuggler networks, the report said some countries were being used as transit hubs or processing sites, while others had storage facilities for the ivory.

Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi´s Director of Parks and Wildlife said African governments were failing to declare their ivory stockpiles mostly because they lacked the resources to compile proper inventories.

But he said his own country was “at an advantage because we don’t have much in terms of our stockpile, but they are certain countries that have huge stockpiles so they have to do the inventory on each piece of ivory and this calls for more resources”.

Conservationists say the only way to eliminate the illegal ivory trade is to pass legislation which is then rigorously enforced.

Dr Arnulf Kohncke, Program Manager Species Conservation at World Wildlife Foundation said that burning of ivory as it is being advocated for by some NGOs should only be carried out as symbolic gesture against the trade. It was not a suitable means for its elimination.

“The steps we need against poaching are mostly law enforcement on the ground and the work to reduce demand in East and South East Asia” Kohncke said.

More than 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa every year for their tusks which frequently end up in Chinese and Vietnamese markets.

CITES regulations do not allow global trade in ivory though they do permit one-off sales of national stockpiles.

Kenya is among countries that have destroyed their ivory stockpile, in April the country burnt its vast stockpile to show its commitment towards ending ivory trade.

CITES member states will discuss amendments to wildlife trade regulations in South Africa in September.