Big Five at CITES - Elephant | WWF

Controlling trade for conservation

The Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is central to global efforts to tackle overexploitation. WWF will be at its 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) working to secure the best result for the world’s threatened species, including our ‘Big Five at CITES’ – elephants, rhinos, sharks, pangolins and tigers.

What’s at stake for elephants

Around 20-30,000 African elephants are being poached annually to fuel consumer markets in Asia, principally in China but also in Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam. This is despite a global ban on international commercial trade in ivory.

While poaching appears to have passed its peak and some populations are stable, overall elephant numbers are still falling – adding to the catastrophic losses detailed in the recent Great Elephant Census.

What does WWF want

CITES must focus on the measures needed to deal with the fundamental issues behind the illegal ivory trade – corruption, inadequate laws and lack of enforcement in countries along the illegal trade chain, and rampant demand in Asia.

WWF wants CITES to take bold steps to ensure that the 19 African and Asian countries most implicated in the illegal trade rigoroulsy implement their national ivory action plans, which are beginning to yield results. If there is a lack of political will in specific countries then they should face sanctions and be barred from trading any CITES-listed species.


© Martin Harvey / WWF
© Martin Harvey / WWF

What WWF does not want

Opening of the international ivory trade, even if it were limited to stocks from a single country like Namibia, which is managing its elephants adequately. Equally the existing provisions in CITES are adequate to prevent any commercial international ivory trade and there is no way to strengthen them. Furthermore, proposed changes do not meet the scientific criteria and could inadvertently open the door to trade.

WWF is also concerned that a divisive debate over these anti- and pro-trade proposals will split the conference when the world needs to come together to intensify the fight against the poachers and the traffickers.


Read more about CITES CoP
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