Every 15 minutes, an elephant somewhere dies in the hands of poachers. This is why wildlife advocates have been calling for a global ban on the infamous ivory trade. However, officials of the Africa Elephant Coalition (AEC) are dismayed that the European Union (EU) refused to support a comprehensive ban on the trade.
According to the position paper released by the commission, countries with large elephant populations must find ways to “sustainably manage” the species. AEC, which consists of 29 African states, warns that a mass extinction might happen within 25 years if no action will be done.
While there is an existing regulation on ivory sales, it will end in 2017, prompting several African countries to encourage others to make a move before the Convention on International Trade in International Species (CITES) conference this coming September in Johannesburg. The countries, however, failed to secure EU’s complete support.
CITES, an agreement crafted by 181 nations and the EU, provides different levels of protection for species that are in danger of extinction. A Conference of the Parties takes place every three years where members are encouraged to submit proposals.
AEC’s Council of Elders President Azizou El Hadj Issa told the Guardian that EU’s support would greatly matter.
“The situation is alarming in most of our countries. 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. We need the EU to support us and become part of the solution to this crisis.”
For years, many researchers have been searching for ways to stop elephant poaching. In 2008, a mass legal sale of ivory took place in a bid to dramatically reduce its cost. For $15 million, China and Japan were permitted to purchase 107 tons of ivory that were acquired from elephants that died due to natural causes.
However, the effort backfired because instead of making poaching less profitable, the demand increased, which further urged poachers to kill elephants. A study claimed that the sale of the legally collected ivory from Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe increased elephant poaching by 66 percent.
Professor Solomon Hsiang of the University of California Berkeley revealed the saddening results to the Guardian.
“We now have pretty striking evidence that these sales can be catastrophic. It backfired in a very bad way. I used to be a big proponent of legalisation in general to reduce the adverse effects of black markets. But through doing this work I have realised you have to be much more cautious. My own views have changed dramatically.”
Zimbabwe and Namibia are proposing to have another legal sale, but several scholars are worried that the consequences from the 2008 sale might happen again. As per another professor, these sales are “ill-disguised and self-serving.”
CITES maintains that it is not solely responsible for the backfiring of the 2008 sale. After all, the decision was approved because of the votes from the member states. CITES welcomes further research to validate that there’s a direct correlation between legal sales and increased demands for ivory.
“The secretariat does not argue for or against the one-off sales. These decisions were taken by CITES [countries] in the context of the conditions that prevailed at the time. The secretariat welcomes this ongoing research and analysis and will continue to closely monitor all relevant findings.”
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[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]