CITES

Friday, 15 May 2009 14:42

Elephants are being slaughtered, ivory is on the move, and many elephant populations are in free-fall decline once more. In 2009 it was estimated that as many as 38,000 elephants were poached in 2006 alone (Scientific American, July 2009 (2.59 MB), a number representing approximately 8% of Africa' remaining elephants killed in one year. This figure far exeeds the elephants annual reproductive rate and even exceeds the poaching rate that existed in the late 1980s, before the 1989 ban took effect.

In August 2014 another key paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants". To a large extent it confirms the trend exposed in the paper from 2009. The headline in National Geographic Daily News covering it 18 August 2014 read "100,000 Elephants Killed by Poachers in just Three Years, Landmark Analysis Finds".

Historically trade and capture responsible for elephant's demise

Since the Proboscidea originated 60 million years ago, the order has included some 10 families, 45 genera and 185 species and subspecies, in a spectacular diversity of forms. The African (Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) existing today are the sole remnants of that remarkable evolutionary radiation. Representing a tiny fraction of their former numbers, the living elephants survive in only small pockets of the land they once roamed. In many areas elephant populations have already gone extinct or are highly endangered.

Over centuries legal and illegal hunting ("poaching") for the commercial ivory trade and, in Asia, the capture of elephants for human use, have been largely responsible for the elephant's demise. The number of wild Asian elephants now comprise less than a tenth of all remaining elephants, and continue to decline in shrinking habitat. In Africa, elephants once inhabited the entire continent, from the Mediterranean down to its southern tip, but the ivory trade coupled with human expansion caused a continental decline in their numbers. By circa 1600 North Africa was devoid of elephants. In modern Africa, poaching for ivory has been fuelled by poverty, political instability and civil unrest coupled with the easy availability of arms. In recent history, between 1979 and 1989, Africa's elephants underwent a dramatic and devastating decline, falling from approximately 1.3 million individuals to an estimated 609,000. Human greed and rising prices of ivory were responsible for the appalling slaughter.

Trade in ivory leads to enormous losses

The killing of elephants for their ivory is the cause of enormous losses in numbers as well as suffering to individuals. The deaths of individuals causes the fragmentation of families and destroys the very fabric of elephant society. Among Asian elephants where females are tuskless and only a small percentage of males have tusks, even subadult and juvenile tuskers are targeted, causing highly skewed sex ratios, as well as trauma and disruption to elephant families.

The tusks of male African elephants average seven times the weight of the tusks of females, and poaching is focused on males and old females. Large males are the primary breeders and the loss of older females impoverishes the social and Animation by ElephantVoicesecological knowledge of remaining family members, reducing individual survival. In populations with the heaviest levels of poaching, elephant groups may be composed of traumatized orphans bunched together in leaderless groups.

Some good sources of information, in addition to the two linked in the first paragraph of this page: Ivory trade fact sheets developed for CoP16 in Bangkok, 2013, an Opinion Piece in Science 12th March 2010; icon Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB).

ElephantVoices standpoint is that all elephants should be on Appendix I of CITES and that commercial trade in ivory should not be allowed.

Thursday, 06 November 2008 09:14

Dear elephant friends!

For those of you living in the US: Sandip Roy Chowdhury will be talking with Joyce Poole on "New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority," which airs Friday Nov 14th at 1:00 p.m. and repeats Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on KALW, 91.7 FM.

You can hear an interview with Joyce on AnimalVoices, an alternative radio in Vancouver, via the player below. The interview with Karl Losken was aired on 31st October.
{audio}2008-10-31.mp3{/audio}

At 4 am this morning we were awoken by two alarm clocks - not wanting to risk that one would let us down. A couple of hours later we departed for our two week event and fundraising tour in California. We're looking forward to see friends, elephant supporters and even elephants (at PAWS, where we have a joint event on Saturday 15th Nov.), while at the same time experience the excitement of an historical election. With strong roots in Kenya (and plenty of other good reasons, too) no-one should be surprised that we are happy that Barack Obama will soon be the new President of the United States of America. We are among those convinced that he will strengthen America in a way that will be good for everyone. Barack is Kiswahili for blessing and he is indeed a blessing.

Waiting at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for our next flight, we watched another BBC news piece describing the impact of increased ivory poaching on the world's biggest land mammal - and expressing fears that the recent ivory auctions, sanctioned by CITES, will stimulate that growing threat. More and more elephants are succumbing to poaching fueled by the ivory trade and the press needs to bring this to the world's attention. Despite difficult times for the financial markets around the world, and for most of us as a consequence, we are hopeful that the people we meet during our California tour will continue to support our elephant work.

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

Thursday, 10 September 2009 13:11

The next CITES meeting will take place in March 2010 and may determine the future survival of elephants. The situation is now dire in many African elephant range states as the number of elephants slaughtered for their ivory soars, in some places escalating to levels only witnessed 20 to 30 years ago. This update from Science Daily is from August 2008 - and the situation is growing worse by the day. A recent article in Scientific American gives a detailed picture of the wholesale slaughter and can be read/downloaded if you are registered as a user on ElephantVoices. Everyone needs to make their voice heard!

Kenya, in concert with many countries, has for years taken a strong position against the ivory trade. With several failing states as neighbors, however, and no stranger to crime and corruption in high places herself, Kenya is suffering from an onslaught of poaching, and the grim stories are making headlines around the world.

Other countries, including neighboring Tanzania, are submitting proposals to CITES that could spell the end of elephant populations as we know them. The killing of elephants for their ivory is currently the cause of enormous losses in numbers as well as enormous suffering to individuals and their families, and many populations could go extinct during the next few years if something isn't done to reverse the trend. You can read more about the many dramatic consequences of poaching here.

You can help to stop the killing of elephants by ensuring that your country votes against any further sales of ivory and against any downlisting of populations at the next CITES meeting, and by supporting all good forces that work to stop the trade in ivory and its demand. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in CITES will be held in Doha from 13 to 25 March 2010.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that all elephants should be on Appendix I of CITES and the commercial trade in ivory should be banned.

Thursday, 28 January 2010 00:00

Kenya is among countries working hard to convince the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to reject proposals from Tanzania and Zambia that would downlist their elephant populations and allow them to sell their stockpiled ivory. Kenya has secured the support of 16 other African nations in this battle for elephants. Further support appears to be coming from Britain where Environment Secretary Hilary Benn confirmed that the UK intends to vote against the proposed sale of ivory from Tanzania and Zambia, a move that we applaud. Many, including us, are convinced that such sales would lead to further killing of African elephants.

Kenya, herself, has submitted a proposal on behalf of 24 of the 37 African Elephant Range States that supports a lengthening of the moratorium on ivory trade from 9 to at least 20 years. The current nine year moratorium (which applies only to the countries that have already been permitted to sell their stockpiles) has no biological basis. The mean age of first conception of a young female elephants is about 12 years. A resting period commensurate with an average elephant generation time should be based on mean female reproductive age (ca. 20 years and mean age of first male reproduction (ca. 35 years).

ElephantVoices is working with others to stop the trade. Until we depart for CITES in Doha in mid March 2010 we will continue to update you - both here on ElephantVoices.org and on ElephantVoices on Facebook. You can find selected media coverage related to poaching and the ivory trade here, and a page dedicated to this topic and our views here. We appreciate your support toward this effort!

 

Friday, 29 January 2010 16:02

Copyright: WildAidIn this day and age the best way to do this is through the web, posting on Facebook and YouTube, sharing and cross-posting.The ivory trade is unsustainable. Elephants are in jeopardy because people covet their tusks. In a collaborative effort ElephantVoices is working to get the facts and figures out to decision-makers, and to spread the word in hopes of reaching potential buyers of ivory.

Over 80 celebrities have donated their time to public service announcements (PSAs) produced by our colleagues at WildAid. This organization is among the few with a substantial audience in a Facebook- and Google-free China - the country that is currently the biggest threat to elephants. Take a look at one of their PSAs about elephant, ivory and poaching starring famous Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming.

Tuesday, 02 March 2010 07:05

Ivory poaching is heavily impacting many elephant populations, killing off older individuals with larger tusks and fragmenting families and leaving youngsters orphaned. We must act before it is too late. The increasing demand for ivory in Asia combined with corruption, poor governance and poverty in many range states is resulting in the killing tens of elephants each day.

We believe that a total ban on trade in elephant tusks is necessary and that further legal sale will fuel both the demand and supply. You will find several new links related to poaching and the ivory trade here, including some to online petitions. Please use your social networks off- and online to influence the decision at the upcoming CITES meeting which will take place during the second half of March.

Let your voice be heard!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010 15:16

We wrote to AVAAZ months ago to encourage them to run a campaign against the ivory trade. Many others have obviously done the same, and we were yesterday thrilled to see their online campaign. AVAAZ has an enormous network of members and has the capacity to be heard. In just a day or so they have collected over 100,000 signatures. Let CITES members hear what we think about Tanzania's and Zambia's proposal for further sale of ivory!

Please sign on and send the message on to your friends.

Save the Elephants: STOP BLOODY IVORY!

Thursday, 11 March 2010 14:37

Science Opinion Piece 12. March 2010: Elephants, Ivory, and TradeTogether with 25 other scientists we have authored an opinion piece on the ivory trade for Science, which you can access on this page. You'll also find a press release from Drs. Sam Wasser, Andy Dobson, Katarzyna Nowak, Joyce Poole, and Petter Granli.

The piece argues that CITES' member states should reject the proposals from Tanzania and Zambia requesting further sale of ivory. CITES (CoP15) starts today, Saturday 13 March.

Science Opinion Piece, Volume 327, 12. March 2010: icon Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB)

"Scientists Oppose One-off Ivory Sales and Urge International Trade Decisions to Put Science above Politics": icon Press release Science Opinion Piece: Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (63.42 kB)

You will find quite a few links to media coverage related to the opinion piece in Science here.
Monday, 15 March 2010 15:18

CITES -  CoP15 logoWe have uploaded a page with a few links to sources of information and updates from the ongoing CITES - CoP15 - in Doha, Qatar, 13 to 25 March. We will from Wednesday give you some updates ourselves - when time and connection permits.

Friday, 19 March 2010 12:06

Our objectives for being here at CITES do not allow much time for giving comprehensive updates, nor for relaxation, for that matter. This is partly why we have given some links to other sources for CoP15 updates and related information here, and why we continue to update this page with links to media coverage about ivory trade and poaching. Take the facts and reflections in this news piece as our "one and only" proper feedback about our perspective of CITES and the CoP15 "in action". I am well aware that many of you might find the below rather technical, but in trying to reach people with different level of insight this is how it has ended up...

Friday (yesterday) was a day off in terms of the official program, and gave us a chance to catch up with important e-mails and preparations for the days and activities to come. In the evening we participated in a strategy meeting and dinner with the Afrian Elephant Coalition (AEC). A few hours ago we went to the Official Delegates' Dinner hosted by Qatar's Ministry of Environment, but raced back to our hotel for some more time on the computer after a quick meal and a couple of important conversations.

Improved CITES work processes strongly needed

It's a fact that enormous effort and money go into lobbying CITES delegates. This mean that politics, horse-trading and "friendly favors" among nations sometimes overtake CITES mandate of "ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival." Admittedly, I don't have a good gut feeling based on how CoP15 voted against increased protection for the polar bear and the blue fin tuna.

CITES member states rely heavily on the Panel of Experts (PoE), selected by the Secretariat. Their reports on Tanzania's and Zambia's proposals for sale and downlisting (available here) were distributed, without peer review, only a few days before CoP15. They contain conclusions that we disagree with and some core facts that are wrong. We honor the hard work of the Panel, but we feel that elephants deserve a more open and less rushed process. Handing out such crucial documents a couple of days before the meeting takes place is simply unacceptable.

We have contested the Secretariat's conclusion that Zambia's and Tanzania's populations do not meet the biological criteria to remain on Appendix I in Statement from Save The Elephants & ElephantVoices regarding Tanzania's and Zambia's proposal distributed to CoP15 delegates on 18 March. The opinion piece in Science 12 March, Elephants, Ivory, and Trade, highlights the need for engagement of the wider scientific community in CITES decisions regarding the future of elephants.

We have spent most of today working hard to prepare a presentation that Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce will give at CoP15 tomorrow, Sunday. It pinpoint some hard facts and figures about the ivory trade and Tanzania's and Zambia's evident role in it while also describing the long-term consequences of poaching on elephant populations. The presentation will, furthermore, document what we view as a clear relationship between CITES elephant petitions, one-off sales and illegal trade and poaching. We argue that it would be irresponsible to break the spirit of the nine year moratiorium or "resting period" on trade that was decided at CoP14.

The "bigger picture" - and welfare for the individual elephant

Qatar is one of the sunniest places on earth, but we have hardly been outside. From our hotel windows we can see huge buildings shooting up all around - what probably is the richest country in the world, considering their oil and gas reserves, is a quickly growing financial powerhouse. It admittedly feels kind of strange to discuss conservation and wildlife surrounded by overwhelming signs of trade, luxury and (over)consumption.

While CITES mainly is about the "bigger picture" and trends, we shouldn't forget the welfare of individuals. During the last couple of days we have been through slides showing numerous ivory seizures, with three huge ones from 2009 representing 17,000 dead elephants. We have seen photos from markets or shops in Nigeria, Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Egypt exhibiting ivory equal to hundreds of elephants. During the presentation tomorrow gruesome photos of elephants whose genitals have been cut off will be shown for the first time. We cannot even imagine the trauma for families whose members are amongst the 30,000+ elephants that are estimated to be killed each year.

The fight against the ivory trade is in any case not over

It is late Saturday evening - during Monday we most likely will know if CITES will follow the Precautionary Principle and give elephants a much needed benefit of the doubt. Even with a positive decision the struggle is far from over, better law enforcement is another vital factor in this trade. The world society and African governments will have to put a lot of effort into closing down ivory suppliers and outlets, while authorities in China, Japan and Thailand must control and close down smuggling routes and illegal carving facilities. To change attitudes among willing buyers in the market place, educating people that ivory means dead elephants, is just one of many challenges we face.

We hope to bring you good news on Monday - but don't want to raise any expectations what so ever.

Petter, in Doha

Section of GB family in Amboseli wait for their one-tusked matriarch, Grace, to catch up. (©ElephantVoices)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:57

We are extremely happy to report that elephants did well at CITES' CoP15 in Doha, Qatar. But, we are well aware that while the battle was won, the war against the ivory trade and for elephant conservation in general is an on-going one. Poverty, greed, poor governance, habitat loss and lack of law enforcement are among the many factors threatening the future of elephants and interacting with the ivory trade with devastating effect.

Our inspiration to fight on comes from the elephants themselves. We cannot win, though, if elephant range states are not willing to put a higher value on live rather than dead elephants. CITES is a convention set up to prevent the over exploitation of species by trade (though sometimes the opposite seems true); it is not meant to deal with issues of poverty, population growth or land use planning. Some countries always play the poverty card, though. While we do not buy the argument put forward over and again from southern Africa that elephants "have to pay to stay", we do recognize that we will lose elephants if local governments are not able to balance out the needs of people with those of elephants and wildlife in general.

Major achievement for elephants

As usual, elephants dominated the CITES Conference and at certain times the atmosphere was extremely tense. Requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down list their elephants populations from Appendix I to II and to begin to trade in ivory were both rejected. Tanzania and Zambia amended their proposals when they realized that they might lose the vote, but despite well orchestrated interventions by supporting parties they did not succeed in achieving the two thirds majority required. We firmly believe that down listing and "one-off" sales would have further stimulated the market for ivory, and led to more killing of elephants. They did succeed in getting another vote in the plenary session today, Thursday 25th, but the victory for elephants was upheld.

We feel that our participation was a major achievement for elephants and for ElephantVoices. While at CoP15 in Doha ElephantVoices and Save the Elephants prepared and distributed a statement to the delegates arguing that the biological criteria for down listing of Tanzania's and Zambia's elephant populations had not been met. We received an enormous response to a science-based presentation by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce which countered some of the claims by the CITES Secretariat. The day before the vote more than 350 CITES participants squeezed into the meeting room with tens more having to turn around at the door for lack of space. We heard from many delegates that the presentation was an eye opener, and it is probably fair to state that it had a significant impact on what transpired later. We believe that our presentation helped influenced the EU to vote against Tanzania and to abstain in the Zambian vote which meant that they did not get the 2/3 majority required.

A magnificent team for elephants

KWS' Patrick Omondi during CoP15 intervention Our main collaborator during CoP15 was the African Elephant Coalition (AEC, with 23 African elephants range states as members), and the informal group Kenya Elephant Forum (KEF) which includes key stakeholders in Kenya (Save the Elephants, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service, Youth for Conservation, ElephantVoices and others) co-ordinated by Pat Awori. During our recent trips to Kenya we were able to participate in two meetings of the KEF and were in daily email contact with them leading up to the meeting. Our African friends did a great job, and KWS assistant director Patrick Omondi presented AEC perspectives in an excellent manner. We are proud being part of this magnificent team!

Over 4,000 fans are currently following us on Facebook, and during the heated discussions and thrilling vote Monday 12th we updated our Facebook Page several times - "live from the conference hall in Doha". We got lots of responses, and many interesting comments that will be reflected in our educational outreach and work ahead. Some of you might have followed the updated list of links about the ivory trade and poaching, list to CITES information and update sources and used our searchable Document Download Center to find documents relevant to the ivory trade and CITES.

After months of focus on the ivory trade we will have to re-direct some of our energy on several important welfare issues ahead. In ALL elephant work, though, whether we are talking about wild or captive elephants, the welfare perspective is one that we never forget.

We thank all of you following and supporting us in this endeavor - and look forward to continued contact!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 00:00

Science Opinion Piece 12. March 2010: Elephants, Ivory, and TradeOn the day before the CITES (CoP15) meeting opened in Doha in March, we published an opinion piece against the ivory trade together with 25 other scientists. The piece, published in the Policy Forum section of Science, was entitled, Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB).

In the 25 June 2010 issue of Science you can read a rebuttal by John Frederick Walker and Dan Stiles. In the same edition several of us - Samuel Wasser, Katarzyna Nowak, Joyce Poole, John Hart, Rene Beyers, Phyllis Lee, Keith Lindsay, Gardner Brown, Petter Granli and Andrew Dobson have written a response to their arguments. You can read and download both the rebuttal and our response here (507.73 kB).

Our initial piece argued that CITES' member states should reject the proposals from Tanzania and Zambia requesting down listing of their elephant populations and further sales of ivory. After a heated debate this is, indeed, what happened.

 

 

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 00:00

The ivory trade is, once again, the biggest direct threat to the welfare and survival of elephants. Between now and the 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok in 2013, ElephantVoices will be working hard on messaging: We want the people who might be tempted to buy ivory to make the connection between their purchase and the deaths of individuals.

As Manchester University political scientist, Rosaleen Duffy, recently commented, "Rather than focusing on poverty as a driver of poaching, we need to look at wealth. Poachers are servicing markets in the wealthy world, in this case in East Asia".

Back in 1988 Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss helped to initiate a highly successful media campaign, whose slogan was, "Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory". Joyce travelled to Japan and Hong Kong, then the primary markets for ivory, and spoke to ivory carvers and merchants and government authorities. The public awareness campaign and Kenya's highly publicised burning of 12 tons of ivory captured the world's attention. Demand for ivory plummeted and the market collapsed. The killing of elephants all but stopped - for a few years.

Due to rapidly increasing human populations everywhere, elephants have been pushed into smaller and smaller spaces, and it is certainly true that this has led to conflict between people and elephants in many areas. In the mid 1990s the media began putting out a simplified massage: "there are too many elephants". The indirect message was - the elephants have recovered, it's OK to buy ivory again. Many African countries began playing the "poverty card" claiming that elephants were exacerbating poverty and that the sale of ivory would help people. The result? A resurge in the demand for ivory. It began slowly and has gathered pace.

And now? It's wide-spread elephanticide once more. But this time there is a new and uneducated market. The explosion of wealth in China is a driving force behind the increased demand for ivory and the rising slaughter of elephants. And, with ivory available, there are willing buyers all over the world. This is why YOU can make a difference. It is not about stopping poachers in the bush, but about stopping buyers in the towns. We urge all of you to use your voice to help us to get the message out. Especially those of you with a network in China and Eastern Asia - help us by translating our posts into Chinese, Japanese. Use your own network to pass the message on; influence anyone who might be tempted to buy ivory, or who might have any say in how your country votes on elephants at CITES. We won a victory in Doha in March this year, but the struggle for elephants survival will continue.

Together our voices can put an end to the killing of elephants for their tusks.

The ivory trade - It's SO much more than numbers.......

Wildlife managers, conservationists, and those who argue for keeping a vibrant trade in ivory, like to talk numbers. How many tons of ivory can elephants produce through natural mortality? How much money can be made from the sale of ivory? How many tons are held in ivory stockpiles? How many elephants are killed to supply the illegal market? Are elephant numbers increasing or decreasing in this country or that?

But very few of these experts talk about what these numbers mean to the survival and well being of individual elephants. The welfare implications to these individual building block of societies are not even acknowledged as people, organisations and nations barter away lives at international conferences.

More than 1,5 tonnes of ivory shipped from Tanzania was recently seized in Hong Kong. DNA will confirm which populations were mined by the killers attempting to satisfy the growing Asian market. An editorial from the 11th September edition of the Tanzanian newspaper, The Citizen, remarks that 11.6 tons of the ivory seized over the last 18 months originated in Tanzania. The article calls on the government to take urgent measures to disassociate the country from trafficking networks.

Eleven and a half tons is only the tip of the iceberg. Smuggling occurs when there is a fair chance that contraband will reach its destination and figures suggest that only 10-15% of shipments are detected. The true figure is likely to be more like 116 tons.

One ton of ivory = 135 dead elephants
and much, much more...

  • Males with big tusks killed = skewed sex ratios
  • Elephant with big tusks killed = Loss of older, experienced members of society
  • Mothers killed = catastrophic for lifetime survival and well being of her calves
  • Matriarchs killed = compromised survival of remaining members
  • As these older, more experienced elephants killed = fabric of elephant society destroyed
  • Enormous suffering

Slide from our talk at symposium Compassionate Conservation, 2 Sept. 2010,
arguing
that many forget the enormous welfare implications behind the cold
figures related to the ivory trade.

Go directly to talk here.

But let's just stick to what we know - the 11.6 tons. How many lives does that represent? The average weight of tusks in trade is something like 3.7 kg. Some elephants have only one tusk so the standard is to use 1.8 tusks per elephant. Therefore, 11.6 tons is equivalent to some 1,742 elephants. But, if estimates are correct it could be ten times that - 17,000 deaths - just based on Tanzania. And we know that the killing is far worse in parts of central Africa.

The Domino Effect

The tusks of adult males are seven times the weight of those of adult females of the same age. So poachers start mining a population by killing adult males. The result? The sex ratio of poached populations are highly skewed toward females. Data show that populations being poached in Tanzania today are already highly skewed, which means that perhaps two thirds of the 1,742 (or if you want to extrapolate, 17,420) elephants who died were female. Let's use a round figure of 1,000 (or 10,000 for the extrapolators) adult females. What happened to the children of these mothers?

Elephant calves are heavily dependent upon their mothers. Calves under two die if their mothers die. Indeed up to the age of 8 or 9, being orphaned is catastrophic for lifetime survival and well-being. Most adult females have at least two offspring under the age of 9. So for each female who dies, you can count at least one calf death and frequently two. It would be safe to assume that the number of elephant deaths may double the figure represented by the seized tusks. The 11.6 tonnes is likely to represent the deaths of 2,500-3,000 elephants (or 25-30,000 elephants).

We may not know these individuals by name, we may not recognize their faces, their voices, their smell. But they had families - sons, daughters, mothers, grandmothers who remember them, who have suffered and continue to suffer. These individuals care what we are doing to their societies.

Do any of our policy and decision makers care? Do the ivory merchants and the ivory buyers care? Do you care?

The time for compassion is NOW

We believe that that time for change is now! There are too many people on our planet to continue to promote greed for the body parts of animals. We must begin to engender compassion for the other individuals who share our world.

Some telling headlines from recent media coverage you should read - you find these articles and many others here.

  • Demand from wealthy makes elephants unfair game
  • Tanzania: Ivory Seizure Wake-Up Call to Wildlife Officials
  • Hong Kong: Ivory tusks worth $10.85m seized
  • South Africa: Top parks official accused of poaching
  • Uganda: Elephants suffer as UWA top brass fight

Tuesday, 19 July 2011 16:26

On Wednesday 20th July 2011, almost five tonnes of contraband ivory will be burned during a ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Service's Manyani Field Training School in Tsavo West National Park. The ivory is part of the June 2002 seizure that took place in Singapore. An estimated 600 elephants died to produce the 335 confiscated tusks and 41,553 hankos that will be destroyed in the pire. Hankos are seals or signature stamps used in Japan, China and Korea. The ivory was found to have primarily originated from Malawi and Zambia. ElephantVoices fully supports this move, which sends a strong signal that ivory should not be in the market.

During the 2010 Conference of the Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, ElephantVoices was among those orgaizations strongly opposing any trade in ivory. We argued that down-listing and more "one-off" sales would further stimulate the market for ivory and lead to increased killing of elephants (See Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB). In an important victory for elephants, CITES voted against requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down-list their elephant populations and sell their stock-piles.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that the potential global market for ivory is far greater than the amount the entire world population of elephants can supply. Any market for ivory will stimulate increased demand and, therefore, a spiraling illegal trade and further killing of elephants. We believe that the market for ivory is impossible to control and to satisfy, and that previous sales have just driven up demand, established more smuggling routes and a growing carving industry. The result of recent sales and the surrounding speculation, has stimulated demand, which is now having deadly consequences for ten thousands of elephants every year.

ElephantVoices urges governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to act forcefully to curb the current boom in illegal sales, smuggling and poaching - and we hope that the symbolic ivory burning on 20th July will inspire people and countries to work together to protect elephants.

The ivory burning is the fourth of its kind after Kenya's in 1989 (12 tonnes) and in 1991 (6,8 tonnes, see below), and in Zambia in 1992. African governments have recently been asked to join forces to fight poaching and other environmental crimes as way of protecting their economies. The ivory burning in Tsavo on 20th July is the first regional exercise of this kind. Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki will preside over the burning, which is the climax of the first-ever African Elephant Law Enforcement Day celebrations on the theme: ‘Fostering cooperation to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa’. The day is meant to recognise the plight of the endangered African elephant, and to celebrate its importance and appreciate challenges faced in its conservation. The burning of the ivory was a decision of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council in line with CITES.

- Media coverage ivory burning 20th July 2011 (Google search "ivory burning, Kenya")
- Read more about ivory and poaching on Elephants killed for ivory (ElephantVoices)
- Selected links ivory and poaching (Updated list on ElephantVoices)

On 18th July 1991 - designated as Elephant Day - Kenya held her second ivory burning. It was preceded by an elaborate parade through the streets of Nairobi, demonstrations by school children and speeches by VIPs. Kenya was celebrating the result of the 1989 burning, the ban on ivory trade and the Appendix I listing; elephant poaching was already way down.

As then Elephant Program head ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole organized the parade and the ivory burning on behalf of Kenya Wildlife Service. She has fond memories of this special day. This year's burning comes at a time when poaching is spiraling out of control. We are extremely disturbed by the current boom in illegal trade and poaching.
(All photos ElephantVoices)
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:57

We are extremely happy to report that elephants did well at CITES' CoP15 in Doha, Qatar. But, we are well aware that while the battle was won, the war against the ivory trade and for elephant conservation in general is an on-going one. Poverty, greed, poor governance, habitat loss and lack of law enforcement are among the many factors threatening the future of elephants and interacting with the ivory trade with devastating effect.

Our inspiration to fight on comes from the elephants themselves. We cannot win, though, if elephant range states are not willing to put a higher value on live rather than dead elephants. CITES is a convention set up to prevent the over exploitation of species by trade (though sometimes the opposite seems true); it is not meant to deal with issues of poverty, population growth or land use planning. Some countries always play the poverty card, though. While we do not buy the argument put forward over and again from southern Africa that elephants "have to pay to stay", we do recognize that we will lose elephants if local governments are not able to balance out the needs of people with those of elephants and wildlife in general.

Major achievement for elephants

As usual, elephants dominated the CITES Conference and at certain times the atmosphere was extremely tense. Requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down list their elephants populations from Appendix I to II and to begin to trade in ivory were both rejected. Tanzania and Zambia amended their proposals when they realized that they might lose the vote, but despite well orchestrated interventions by supporting parties they did not succeed in achieving the two thirds majority required. We firmly believe that down listing and "one-off" sales would have further stimulated the market for ivory, and led to more killing of elephants. They did succeed in getting another vote in the plenary session today, Thursday 25th, but the victory for elephants was upheld.

We feel that our participation was a major achievement for elephants and for ElephantVoices. While at CoP15 in Doha ElephantVoices and Save the Elephants prepared and distributed a statement to the delegates arguing that the biological criteria for down listing of Tanzania's and Zambia's elephant populations had not been met. We received an enormous response to a science-based presentation by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce which countered some of the claims by the CITES Secretariat. The day before the vote more than 350 CITES participants squeezed into the meeting room with tens more having to turn around at the door for lack of space. We heard from many delegates that the presentation was an eye opener, and it is probably fair to state that it had a significant impact on what transpired later. We believe that our presentation helped influenced the EU to vote against Tanzania and to abstain in the Zambian vote which meant that they did not get the 2/3 majority required.

A magnificent team for elephants

KWS' Patrick Omondi during CoP15 intervention Our main collaborator during CoP15 was the African Elephant Coalition (AEC, with 23 African elephants range states as members), and the informal group Kenya Elephant Forum (KEF) which includes key stakeholders in Kenya (Save the Elephants, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service, Youth for Conservation, ElephantVoices and others) co-ordinated by Pat Awori. During our recent trips to Kenya we were able to participate in two meetings of the KEF and were in daily email contact with them leading up to the meeting. Our African friends did a great job, and KWS assistant director Patrick Omondi presented AEC perspectives in an excellent manner. We are proud being part of this magnificent team!

Over 4,000 fans are currently following us on Facebook, and during the heated discussions and thrilling vote Monday 12th we updated our Facebook Page several times - "live from the conference hall in Doha". We got lots of responses, and many interesting comments that will be reflected in our educational outreach and work ahead. Some of you might have followed the updated list of links about the ivory trade and poaching, list to CITES information and update sources and used our searchable Document Download Center to find documents relevant to the ivory trade and CITES.

After months of focus on the ivory trade we will have to re-direct some of our energy on several important welfare issues ahead. In ALL elephant work, though, whether we are talking about wild or captive elephants, the welfare perspective is one that we never forget.

We thank all of you following and supporting us in this endeavor - and look forward to continued contact!

Friday, 19 March 2010 12:06

Our objectives for being here at CITES do not allow much time for giving comprehensive updates, nor for relaxation, for that matter. This is partly why we have given some links to other sources for CoP15 updates and related information here, and why we continue to update this page with links to media coverage about ivory trade and poaching. Take the facts and reflections in this news piece as our "one and only" proper feedback about our perspective of CITES and the CoP15 "in action". I am well aware that many of you might find the below rather technical, but in trying to reach people with different level of insight this is how it has ended up...

Friday (yesterday) was a day off in terms of the official program, and gave us a chance to catch up with important e-mails and preparations for the days and activities to come. In the evening we participated in a strategy meeting and dinner with the Afrian Elephant Coalition (AEC). A few hours ago we went to the Official Delegates' Dinner hosted by Qatar's Ministry of Environment, but raced back to our hotel for some more time on the computer after a quick meal and a couple of important conversations.

Improved CITES work processes strongly needed

It's a fact that enormous effort and money go into lobbying CITES delegates. This mean that politics, horse-trading and "friendly favors" among nations sometimes overtake CITES mandate of "ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival." Admittedly, I don't have a good gut feeling based on how CoP15 voted against increased protection for the polar bear and the blue fin tuna.

CITES member states rely heavily on the Panel of Experts (PoE), selected by the Secretariat. Their reports on Tanzania's and Zambia's proposals for sale and downlisting (available here) were distributed, without peer review, only a few days before CoP15. They contain conclusions that we disagree with and some core facts that are wrong. We honor the hard work of the Panel, but we feel that elephants deserve a more open and less rushed process. Handing out such crucial documents a couple of days before the meeting takes place is simply unacceptable.

We have contested the Secretariat's conclusion that Zambia's and Tanzania's populations do not meet the biological criteria to remain on Appendix I in Statement from Save The Elephants & ElephantVoices regarding Tanzania's and Zambia's proposal distributed to CoP15 delegates on 18 March. The opinion piece in Science 12 March, Elephants, Ivory, and Trade, highlights the need for engagement of the wider scientific community in CITES decisions regarding the future of elephants.

We have spent most of today working hard to prepare a presentation that Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Sam Wasser and Joyce will give at CoP15 tomorrow, Sunday. It pinpoint some hard facts and figures about the ivory trade and Tanzania's and Zambia's evident role in it while also describing the long-term consequences of poaching on elephant populations. The presentation will, furthermore, document what we view as a clear relationship between CITES elephant petitions, one-off sales and illegal trade and poaching. We argue that it would be irresponsible to break the spirit of the nine year moratiorium or "resting period" on trade that was decided at CoP14.

The "bigger picture" - and welfare for the individual elephant

Qatar is one of the sunniest places on earth, but we have hardly been outside. From our hotel windows we can see huge buildings shooting up all around - what probably is the richest country in the world, considering their oil and gas reserves, is a quickly growing financial powerhouse. It admittedly feels kind of strange to discuss conservation and wildlife surrounded by overwhelming signs of trade, luxury and (over)consumption.

While CITES mainly is about the "bigger picture" and trends, we shouldn't forget the welfare of individuals. During the last couple of days we have been through slides showing numerous ivory seizures, with three huge ones from 2009 representing 17,000 dead elephants. We have seen photos from markets or shops in Nigeria, Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Egypt exhibiting ivory equal to hundreds of elephants. During the presentation tomorrow gruesome photos of elephants whose genitals have been cut off will be shown for the first time. We cannot even imagine the trauma for families whose members are amongst the 30,000+ elephants that are estimated to be killed each year.

The fight against the ivory trade is in any case not over

It is late Saturday evening - during Monday we most likely will know if CITES will follow the Precautionary Principle and give elephants a much needed benefit of the doubt. Even with a positive decision the struggle is far from over, better law enforcement is another vital factor in this trade. The world society and African governments will have to put a lot of effort into closing down ivory suppliers and outlets, while authorities in China, Japan and Thailand must control and close down smuggling routes and illegal carving facilities. To change attitudes among willing buyers in the market place, educating people that ivory means dead elephants, is just one of many challenges we face.

We hope to bring you good news on Monday - but don't want to raise any expectations what so ever.

Petter, in Doha

Section of GB family in Amboseli wait for their one-tusked matriarch, Grace, to catch up. (©ElephantVoices)

Monday, 15 March 2010 15:18

CITES -  CoP15 logoWe have uploaded a page with a few links to sources of information and updates from the ongoing CITES - CoP15 - in Doha, Qatar, 13 to 25 March. We will from Wednesday give you some updates ourselves - when time and connection permits.

Tuesday, 02 March 2010 07:05

Ivory poaching is heavily impacting many elephant populations, killing off older individuals with larger tusks and fragmenting families and leaving youngsters orphaned. We must act before it is too late. The increasing demand for ivory in Asia combined with corruption, poor governance and poverty in many range states is resulting in the killing tens of elephants each day.

We believe that a total ban on trade in elephant tusks is necessary and that further legal sale will fuel both the demand and supply. You will find several new links related to poaching and the ivory trade here, including some to online petitions. Please use your social networks off- and online to influence the decision at the upcoming CITES meeting which will take place during the second half of March.

Let your voice be heard!