Elephant poaching increases as ivory markets go unregulated
A new report issued under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) shows that illegal killing of elephants and illegal ivory trade continues to increase, threatening efforts to safeguard some African elephant populations.
The report, which will be debated by governments at a key CITES meeting in August, highlights China and Thailand as the two most important raw ivory consuming countries in the world, and indicates that poaching trends can be correlated to increasing affluence in China and tourist arrivals in Thailand.
The Chinese market remains the most prominent destination for illicit ivory in spite of the fact that restrictive government policies, committed implementation and steadfast law enforcement remain strong mitigating factors.
Central Africa consistently displays the highest levels of poaching, while levels of illegal killing are relatively lower in Eastern Africa and lowest of all in Southern Africa.
The report states that “the situation facing elephants in Central Africa appears to be grave and is probably worsening” and that elephants are “in crisis” in that region.
“While China is making considerable efforts to stem this illegal trade, these efforts are undermined by the sheer scale of the import market and the poor enforcement record in some African countries,” says Dr. Colman O’Criodain, WWF wildlife trade policy analyst.
“In particular, unregulated domestic markets in many African countries provide a means by which poachers can launder ivory, which often then finds its way into the international market in defiance of CITES rules,” O’Criodain says.
In Africa, the least regulated domestic markets are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Nigeria. Thailand, meanwhile, has repeatedly failed to respond to international concerns regarding its flourishing ivory markets, which are a magnet for illegally obtained ivory, largely from Africa. The report urges CITES Parties to take action to close ivory markets in these countries.
“Central African countries, through their joint forest commission COMIFAC, have agreed in principle to an action plan to combat wildlife crime – including elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade – but have not yet formally adopted it,” says Lamine Sebogo, WWF African Elephant Programme coordinator.
“This plan must be adopted at the highest level by governments in Central Africa, and implemented as a matter of urgency. The international community should encourage this adoption and support the implementation of this plan.” Sebogo says.
Ivory has been discovered concealed within timber shipments leaving Africa for destinations in Asia, according to Sebogo.
“It is imperative that CITES Parties take remedial actions to shut down unregulated domestic ivory markets, especially the world's largest market in Thailand,” O’Criodain says.