Opening remarks at the workshop on demand-side strategies for curbing illegal ivory trade


CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon

Date Published
CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon
Hangzhou, China
28-29 January 2015
Mr Mr Liu Dongsheng, Vice Administrator, State Forestry Administration
Mr Lin Yunju, Director General of the Forestry Department of Zhejiang
Dr Meng Xianlin, Director-General, CITES Management Authority of China
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government of People’s
Republic of China for co-organizing this workshop with the CITES
Secretariat and for inviting me to share some brief opening remarks with
you this morning.
I would also like to express our deep thanks to the representatives of
the Chinese State Forestry Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Culture, and General Administration of Customs, as well as
representatives of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, the United States of America and the European Commission who
have all joined us for this groundbreaking workshop. Welcome also to
representatives of the UN Development Programme, UN Environment
Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank, the private
sector, non-governmental organizations, and experts and specialists from
many different disciplines, including from the collection and art
investment circles.
As you know, ivory from elephant tusks and other mammals have been
carved since ancient times across many regions and cultures. In recent
centuries, the demand for both carved and raw ivory has mainly been
driven by buyers in Europe, North America and Asia.
CITES is of relatively recent origin, dating back to 1973, and with the
entry into force of CITES in 1975 the international trade in specimens
of wild animals and plants, including elephant ivory (since the African
elephant was first included on the Appendices in 1976), was regulated
for the first time.
CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in wild fauna and flora
is legal, sustainable and traceable. The current alarmingly high level
of poaching of African elephants for their ivory has resulted in both
illegal and unsustainable trade – but efforts to trace this illicit
trafficking, and those responsible for it, are increasingly effective.
Elephant populations across Africa are continuing to be seriously
affected by poaching and in some places they have declined dramatically
due to poaching, which is the most immediate human impact on this iconic
species, while also recognizing the threats posed by habitat loss and
other factors. The illegal trade in elephant ivory is putting illicitly
gained profits into the hands of poachers, illegal traders and
speculators at the expense of ecosystems and the services they provide,
while also undermining the rule of law, local and national economies and
in some cases national and regional security.
As was recognized in the outcomes from the Rio+20 conference organized
by the United Nations in 2012, international trafficking in wildlife
requires strengthened action to be taken on both the supply and demand
Following decisions taken at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the
Parties to CITES in 2013, some African elephant range States are
deploying considerable efforts to fight elephant poaching and control
the supply of illegal elephant ivory. Destination and transit countries
have also intensified their enforcement efforts to better control their
borders and we are seeing enhanced cooperation to combat illegal
wildlife trade across the entire illegal supply chain.
Today’s workshop has the demand side, particularly in relation to
China’s ivory market, as its focus. We hope to use our time together to
gain a deeper understanding of this market and the drivers of demand for
both illegal and legal ivory, including by better understanding and
focusing upon the main actors involved. We also aim to raise awareness
of the severe penalties that are now being applied to ivory smugglers,
sellers and investors dealing in illegal ivory, and the devastating
impacts their unlawful investments are having on elephants and people.
This week we are also talking about heritage – national and global and
cultural and natural.
African elephants are an integral part of sites that have been
recognized internationally for their Outstanding Universal Value under
the UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972. They are considered part
of the world’s natural heritage, are an irreplaceable part of the
natural systems of Africa, and a source of great inspiration. We have
recently seen  natural heritage sites included on the List of World
Heritage in danger due to high levels of poaching, such as the Selous
Reserve in the United Republic of Tanzania.
Ivory carving in Beijing and Guangzhou is recognized by China as part of
its intangible cultural heritage through a national inventory prepared
under the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible
Cultural Heritage of 2003. Quite clearly, this recognition by China of
ivory carving in Beijing and Guangzhou does not in any way safeguard the
carving of or trade in illegally sourced elephant ivory either under
national law or the 2003 Convention.
We welcome the various mass awareness campaigns that are underway in
China, and elsewhere, to reduce the size of illegal markets for
wildlife, and applaud the institutions and personalities that are behind
them. However, we also need to better understand and target the key
black market drivers of the demand for high volumes of illegal ivory.
This includes targeting those people who speculate in illegal ivory
driven only by a profit motive and not by any cultural value or
association. We believe that these speculators comprise only a tiny
fraction of the population, and that they are individuals who may not be
influenced by mass awareness campaigns.
Addressing the issue of demand for illegal ivory requires practical
insights into what is going on in the marketplace so we can gain a
deeper understanding of the exact nature of that demand, and develop
evidence-based and action-oriented demand-side initiatives – to target
the right audiences with the right messages and thereby increase their
likelihood of causing the desired behavioral change. That is why we are
all here today.
China has been very active in supporting the implementation of CITES
both domestically and internationally. Over the past few years, China
has hosted a number of important international workshops related to
CITES, including on combating illegal ivory trade. In addition, China
led the first cross-continent enforcement effort known as Operation
Cobra in 2013, and at this time last year China publicly destroyed 6.2
tonnes of seized ivory.
We have also seen the establishment of the China National Interagency
CITES Enforcement Collaborative Group in 2011 to better support
coordinated enforcement efforts within China, which has led to increased
numbers of seizures, prosecutions and convictions. The imposition of
high monetary fines and custodial sentences on those who have been
convicted of illegally trading in elephant ivory is being widely
publicized and serves as a strong deterrent to others.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the next two days we will hear from a wide
range of speakers on these issues. We respect that people may have
different perceptions and perspectives on the underlying causes of
elephant poaching and the main drivers of the demand for ivory. The
workshop is open to the expression of all opinions but will focus on
where there is common ground.
And as a starting point, it is clearly evident that we are experiencing
a dramatic loss of African elephants through poaching for their ivory,
with a severe decline in elephant populations in some places. It must be
If speculation is, or appears likely to be, one of the key drivers of
the demand for illegally traded ivory, then intervention in this sector,
through a well targeted campaign to bring this illicit speculation to an
end, is warranted.
At the very beginning of a new year, we hope that the messages being
conveyed through this workshop in Hangzhou are heard loud and clear by
anyone who is investing or planning to invest in illegally sourced
elephant ivory:
People who buy illegally sourced ivory now run a much higher risk of
being arrested, prosecuted and severely punished for these serious crimes;
Forensic technology can now easily identify the date and origin of
illegally sourced ivory and provide the evidence needed to bring those
involved in illegal trade to justice; and
Buying illegal ivory has become a highly risky and unwise investment
that will inevitably lead to great financial and personal grief for
those involved.
I would like to end by expressing my thanks to the Government of China
for hosting and supporting this week’s important and groundbreaking
event as well as the Government of the United Kingdom for its financial
support.  This workshop serves to focus additional and much needed
attention on demand-side strategies for curbing illegal ivory trade and
is a further demonstration of China’s commitment to stopping the illegal
ivory trade.