“In 25 years there may not be a single Elephant remaining in Africa if current rates of killing continue,” the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) has warned as it urged the European Union (EU).
The EU, who are meeting on Monday in Brussels to discuss banning the ivory trade, to grasp an historic opportunity.
The AEC, a coalition of 29 African countries, is urging the EU and the European Commission (EC) to follow through on their commitments to ban the ivory trade, while simultaneously praising the EU for adopting the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.
Elephants are experiencing catastrophic declines from poaching. From 2010 to 2012, at least 100,000 Elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory, many of them in AEC countries.
“The situation is alarming in most of our countries,” said Azizou El Hadj Issa, former Minister of Agriculture in Benin and President of the Council of Elders of the AEC.
“Elephants are slaughtered every day, rangers are being killed and the trade is fuelling terrorism which destabilises the continent and has huge repercussions for EU security,” said Issa.
“We need the EU to support us and become part of the solution to this crisis. We, the Africans, have that solution and we call on the EU and its member states to throw their support behind our proposals.”
South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) does not want to see the ivory trade legalised.
“The sustainable, ethical and legal use of ivory can’t be enforced in South Africa currently,” Belinda Glenn from EWT told the African News Agency (ANA) on Monday morning.
“No country has expressed an interest in legal rhino horn import to date. South Africa will therefore need to identify willing, compliant, regulated and established trading partners as approved by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora secretariat),” added Glenn.
However, a South African voice of dissent has challenged the AEC’s approach.
“There is no factual evidence to back the theory that a controlled ivory trade leads to an increase in illegal poaching,” Traffic’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, David Newton told ANA.
Traffic, is an international organisation which aims to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
“Traffic doesn’t argue for or against a controlled trade. We look at the pros and cons of the debate and plan to come up with recommendations at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES, from September 24 to October 5 in Johannesburg,” said Newton.
Nevertheless, in Brussels last week, a delegation of the AEC remained determined during a meeting with several high level officials of the EC and of EU.
The AEC was seeking support for their five-part package to put an end to the ivory trade and afford Elephants the highest protection under international law.
The AEC called on the EU to extend its commitment towards implementing the African Elephant Action Plan, adopted by all African Elephant range states in 2010, by supporting the listing of all African Elephants as a way to enhance the unity of African nations with respect to Elephants and Elephant conservation.
The AEC’s package consists of five proposals for the CoP conference in Johannesburg later in the year.
One of the proposals seeks to unify all African Elephant populations. This would provide maximum protection to Elephants and end the split-listing by transferring the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“The African Elephant is a single species and the CITES listing needs to reflect that,” said Andrew Seguya, Executive Directive of Uganda’s Wildlife Authority.
“An Elephant that wakes up in the morning in Angola could be in Namibia by the same afternoon,” said Seguya.
Another point of the AEC proposal, further advocates closing all domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory.
A stockpile of ivory destruction and management is also one of the AEC recommendations. The AEC argues that the destruction of ivory sends the correct message that ivory is worthless.
A fourth proposal is that the CoP should end negotiations on the Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM).
“In view of the concerted global efforts to reduce demand for ivory, the existence of negotiations on a DMM process to legalise trade sends precisely the wrong message – that a legal and sustainable ivory trade is possible, and could reopen in the not-too-distant future,” explained the AEC.
“The DMM not only poses unacceptable risks for Elephants, but has also generated valid objections among Parties, as shown by the fact that CITES has been unable to make any progress in negotiations after nine years.”
The proposal further aims to end the export of African Elephants outside their natural range, including export to zoos and other captive facilities overseas.
“Such exports provide no direct benefit to conservation of Elephants in their range States and there are considerable objections within Africa on ethical and cultural grounds. African Elephants, along with their ivory, should remain in Africa,” concluded the AEC.
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