Ivory Markets in Central Africa

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Ivory Markets in Central Africa


Ivory Markets in Central Africa,” TRAFFIC, September 2017

The introduction this TRAFFIC report highlights some key elements in the historical persecution of elephants for their tusks (and a detailed study of Central African regions with market surveys of trade in ivory).

Of particular note, is the negative aspect trade has played in the plight of the elephant:

The direct threats to elephants in Central Africa include high levels of poaching, increasing illegal trade in their meat (Stiles, 2011) and derivative products, loss of habitat, and extractive activities. But the most significant factor has been trade in elephant ivory in both domestic and international markets.

The Ivory Trade Review Group’s comprehensive report prior to the seventh meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP7) in 1989 made it abundantly clear that the primary threat to elephants was the international ivory trade (Cobb, 1989). Consequently, the CITES Parties agreed a global ban on commercial ivory trade that took effect in January 1990. General compliance by the major ivory importing nations, especially Japan, led to a decline in illegal ivory trade and, without international markets, poaching fell to background levels throughout most of Africa in the 1990s.

In the early 21st century, however, economic development in certain parts of Asia gave rise to new markets, especially the advent of China, Thailand and Viet Nam as major ivory consuming nations, which has resulted in a number of African countries seeing their elephant populations affected by serious poaching for export once again” – Ivory Markets in Central Africa, Introduction, p. 1 -2 

However, this TRAFFIC report’s summary/introduction seems to have glossed over CITES’ trade interventions, that arguably stimulated demand “In the early 21st century” and gave rise to elephant poaching to meet that stimulated demand:

After CITES’ global ban on commercial ivory trade in January 1990, in 1997 CITES sought to ‘find ways’ (delisting relevant elephant populations by country to CITES Appendix II, where only an export license is required) to meet ‘demand’ for ivory from stockpiles, allowing exports of 47 tonnes of stockpiled ivory to Japan from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It would appear that from this ill-judged CITES decision in 1997, “Pandora’s box“ was re-opened, with the tacit message to previous ivory trading and poaching syndicates that ‘the game was back on.’

The initial 1997 CITES ill-judged thinking was further compounded in 2000, when South Africa’s elephants were delisted to CITES Appendix II with CITES’ blessing, with 6 tonnes of stockpiled ivory permitted for export to Singapore in 2002. In addition, in 2002 some 60 tonnes of ivory from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia was released with CITES’ blessing to Japan (were ivory controls appeared lacking, with a reported 25% of traders not even registered).

In 2008, again to “quell” demand and “reduce prices,” CITES once more (naively in retrospect) blessed stockpiles of ivory to be exported. Since 2008, ivory demand and prices paid have risen exponentially (the price of ivory has skyrocketed from USD $5/kg in 1989 to a wholesale price of USD $2,100/kg in China in 2014), contrary to CITES’ quaint belief that the opposite would be true. It is estimated that as much as 450 tonnes of poached ivory might have been trafficked in 2013 alone.

– “The Theatre of Wildlife Decimation,” IWB, 7 March 2016







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