With African elephant numbers down by an estimated 30% since 2007 due
to poaching, nations urged decisive action this weekend with support
for a motion to close all domestic ivory markets around the world.
Impounded ivory in Malawi
The move came at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of
Nature) Congress held in Hawaii, US, and was backed by a majority of
state and NGO members, including all organisations represented from
This was despite opposition from South Africa, Namibia and Japan who
argued that domestic markets should instead be better regulated.
Speaking on behalf of both Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and WESM, Victor
Mangochi said, “Illegal ivory is known to be laundered into legal
markets and tighter regulation is simply not feasible given the nature
and scale of the crisis.
”The message needs to be clear – that ivory is not for trade – and
that’s exactly what we have heard from both the world’s governments
and the international conservation community this weekend.”
International ivory trade has been banned since 1989, given the fact
that the unprecedented increase in elephant poaching has been driven
by demand for ivory, and an increasing number of countries are moving
to stop all trade within their borders too.
The US and China agreed to stop domestic ivory trade last year, and
Malawi’s own domestic moratorium has been in place since 2014.
According to a recent report published by TRAFFIC and ETIS (Elephant
Trade Information System), Malawi was named as a ‘country of primary
concern’ for its role as a major transit hub in the illegal ivory
trade, alongside Togo, Malaysia and Singapore. Malawi therefore must
not only tackle the poachers targeting its shrinking elephant
populations, but also the organised crime syndicates trafficking ivory
in from neighbouring nations and out to countries like China and Japan
where ivory products are popular.
Closing all domestic markets in ivory would not only help to reduce
demand but also remove the grey area between legal and illegal markets
which is exploited by criminals to launder illicit ivory.
The IUCN does not regulate the ivory trade, but it is hoped that the
resolution will drive nations to commit to a worldwide ban at the
CITES CoP (Convention for the Illegal Trade in Endangered Species
Conference of Parties) which will take place later this month in
Hon. Chilenga, Chair of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus,
said, “We are most encouraged by the resolutions passed at the IUCN
Congress and we look forward to hearing the outcome of the CITES CoP
to hear more on how Malawi can work together with the international
community to combat what is nothing short of a wildlife crisis.”
Political will to fight illegal wildlife trade in Malawi is high and,
in partnership with NGO’s and its development partners, new government
initiatives are starting to reap results.
Since the launch of the country’s first Wildlife Crime Investigations
Unit (WCIU) in April, for instance, there have been 38 arrests for
ivory trafficking which have so far translated into 11 custodial
sentences of up to 13 years, in comparison to an average fine of just
$40 between 2010 and 2014.
Figures just published from the Great Elephant Census estimated that
Africa’s elephant populations are declining at a rate of 8% per year
overall, equating to a total of 30% between 2007 and 2014 where
144,000 elephants lost in 15 African countries