Seized ivory burned in Kenya
While most of the worlds’ attention will be focused on the blazing pile of ivory in Kenya on the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Day, WWF is urging the range states of African elephants, and the international community, to embrace the broader challenge and to step up their efforts to stamp out illegal and poorly regulated domestic ivory markets, in both Asia and Africa.
While some populations of elephants in southern and eastern Africa are stable or recovering, forest elephants in Central Africa are in grave danger from poaching, fuelled by demand for illegal ivory. According to a recent report on trade in elephant ivory submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), “the situation facing elephants in Central Africa appears to be grave and is probably worsening”. The report warns that elephants are “in crisis” in that region.
“Alarmingly, poaching of African elephants and illegal trade in their ivory have been steadily increasing in recent years,” said WWF International’s African Elephant Coordinator Lamine Sebogo, citing the report submitted to CITES.
“We share the view of most experts that illegal or poorly regulated domestic ivory markets in some countries – Thailand, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular – are the main drivers of this increased elephant poaching,” said Dr Colman O’Criodain, WWF International’s Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst. “Unregulated domestic markets in these countries are providing a means for poachers to launder ivory, which often then finds its way into the international market in defiance of CITES rules.”
Since 1989, commercial trade in ivory has been banned under CITES, although exceptions were made on two occasions to allow one-off auctions of ivory retrieved from natural mortality or carcasses of problem elephants from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. However, under CITES rules, it is not legal to allow confiscated ivory to re-enter the market.
The ivory being burnt in Nairobi today is part of a consignment of ivory which was seized in Singapore in 2002. The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), under CITES agreement, took custody of the entire consignment, and in 2010, agreed to repatriate some of the ivory to its country of origin, and destroy the rest (4.9t of raw and processed ivory) through incineration.
“There have been instances in which government-held ivory stockpiles in some countries – including confiscated ivory – have been stolen and subsequently entered illegal trade,” said Dr O’Criodain. “Such a symptom of poor regulation can also encourage speculative poaching.”
“Accordingly, it is essential that stockpiles of confiscated ivory are put beyond use. In this respect, WWF welcomes the decision by the LATF to destroy this ivory. However, WWF believes that, as a matter of good practice, the quantity of ivory in question should always be independently verified before an incineration, in the interests of transparency and accountability,” Dr O’Criodain said.
“It is imperative that all countries with stockpiles ensure that their stockpiles are secure and that domestic trade is tightly regulated to avoid the laundering of poached or stolen ivory,” said Sam Weru, WWF-Kenya Conservation Manager.
WWF urges range states and the international community to view this incineration as the start of a determined effort to strengthen enforcement and shut down unregulated domestic markets.