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Elephants did well in Doha - but continue to need your help

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!