Each year CITES releases a report on the state of illegal elephant killings – mainly from poaching. The figures for last year (2011) are due for release in the next few weeks in preparation for the CITES Standing Committee meeting in July. The numbers of elephant killings could be higher than 2010.
Late last week (Thursday 24th May) a written statement by CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, was presented to United States of America Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing looking into ‘Ivory and Insecurity: The Global Implications of Poaching in Africa’.
The rise in levels of illegal killing and the dynamics surrounding it are worrying, not only for small and fragmented elephant populations, but also for previously secure large populations.
Written statement from CITES gives concern for elephants.
While the written statement by Mr Scanlon did not give away precise figures for elephant killings in advance the statement has sent up a warning flag.
Quoting from the statement Mr Scanlon said, “the number of elephants killed illegally in 2011 is likely to run into the tens of thousands.“
It went on to say, “The ongoing increase in levels of illegal killing of elephants started in 2006, with 2011 displaying the highest levels of poaching since MIKE records began.“
The CITES report on elephants which will be presented to the 62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee while involve data from the 2 main information sources:
- MIKE - Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants.
- ETIS - The Elephant Trade Information System.
Each of the two analysis which are due to be published in advance of the meeting raises concerns.
Key findings of MIKE analysis on illegal elephant killings.
The key findings of the latest MIKE analysis which was presented in the statement included:
- The currently escalating levels of illegal killing across the entire African elephant range are of serious and increasing concern;
- The number of elephants killed illegally in 2011 is likely to run into the tens of thousands;
- Poaching levels are now clearly increasing in all African sub-regions;
- The levels of illegal killing exceed what can be sustained in all four African sub-regions in 2011, with elephant populations now in net decline;
- The Central African sub-region continues to display the highest levels of elephant poaching;
- The ongoing increase in levels of illegal killing of elephants started in 2006, with 2011 displaying the highest levels of poaching since MIKE records began; and
- The rise in levels of illegal killing and the dynamics surrounding it are worrying, not only for small and fragmented elephant populations, but also for previously secure large populations.
Key findings on ETIS analysis on elephant seizures.
The key findings of the latest ETIS analysis – which is run by TRAFFIC – are.
- Three of the five years in which the greatest volumes of ivory were seized4 and reported to ETIS since 1989 occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011, with figures still being compiled for 2012;
- Successive years of peak seizure volumes is not a pattern previously observed in the ETIS data and it stands as a very worrying indication that illegal trade in elephant ivory continues to surge in an unabated manner;
- There is value in using large-scale ivory seizures as a proxy measure for assessing the involvement of organized crime in the trade, with 2011 ending with more large-scale ivory seizures than any previous year in the ETIS data;
- The trend in large scale ivory seizures closely matches the poaching trend reported by MIKE;
- The criminal syndicates behind these large movements of ivory are believed to be highly adaptive and the emergence of new trade routes in the ETIS data are likely to be evidence of evolving tactics;
- Very few large-scale ivory seizures actually result in successful follow-up law enforcement actions, including investigations, arrests, convictions and the imposition of penalties that serve as deterrents; and
- Unregulated, or insufficiently regulated, domestic ivory markets are enabling the laundering of elephant ivory from illegal sources.
2011 looks like it could be worse than 2010 for illegal elephant killings.
Last years MIKE analysis which covered elephants illegally killed in 2010 was based on the discovery of 7,158 elephant remains in Africa and 220 elephant remains in Asia.