Key states along the illegal ivory value chain have committed to urgent measures to halt the illegal trade and secure elephant populations across Africa. The agreement was reached at the African Elephant Summit convened by the government of Botswana and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The Summit is the first-ever meeting focusing on the dynamics of the entire ivory value chain. The measures were agreed on by key African Elephant range states including Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia, ivory transit states Viet Nam, Philippines and Malaysia and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand.
“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act,” says H.E. Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana. “Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species.”
One of the 14 measures the delegates committed to involves classifying wildlife trafficking as a “serious crime”. This will unlock international law enforcement cooperation provided under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, including mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crime.
Other measures agreed include engaging communities living with elephants in their conservation, strengthening national laws to secure maximum wildlife crime sentences, mobilizing financial and technical resources to combat wildlife crime and reducing demand for illegal ivory.
“We are very pleased with the result of the Summit, especially as it involves some of the most important countries along the illegal ivory value chain,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “We hope that these outcomes will go beyond the Summit’s focus on African Elephants and boost broader efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade in other species which have been threatened by it, such as rhinos and pangolins.”
2011 saw the highest levels of poaching and illegal ivory trade in at least 16 years and 2012 shows no signs of abating. According to preliminary data, even higher levels of illicit trade may be reached in 2013. Eighteen large scale seizures involving over 40 tonnes have been recorded so far this year, which represents the greatest quantity of ivory seized over the last 25 years. Poverty and corruption, as well as increasing demand from Asia are the principle drivers of poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), the world’s largest terrestrial mammal, is currently listed as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, with a population estimate of around 500,000 animals.
The African Elephant Summit was organized with the financial support of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the German Government, the US Agency for International Development, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.
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