Eight countries have been given until next week to submit new management plans to reduce ivory trading or face the prospect of trade sanctions. The countries concerned are Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China. They must produce more effective plans to control ivory trading both domestically and internationally by next week and commit to enforcing those plans to avoid the sanctions.
If the countries fail to meet targets set by the new management plans by next year then they will be faced with trade sanctions with other member states. This will mean that other countries will not be able to trade legally in any species listed in any of the CITES appendices.
The ultimatum came after the publishing of a CITES report into the trade of ivory. The report ‘Elephants in the Dust — The African Elephant Crisis’ (pdf) highlights that criminal networks are becoming well established and that insufficient action is being taken against those networks in some countries.
The report – a UNEP sponsored rapid response assessment – was compiled following alarming rises in reports of ivory trading by the CITES-led monitoring organisations MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) and ETIS (Elephant Trade In-formation System).
At the official MIKE sites in Africa in 2011 over 17,000 elephants were recorded killed. That would indicate that an African-wide estimate could be made at over 25,000 and it is expected that the figures will be the same or even higher for 2012. The number of elephants being killed in many African countries is now thought to be more than what the population can replace.
In a sobering statement the report says that this is now the second time in the 40 year history of CITES that elephants are facing a crisis.
The report highlights how poachers and smugglers have changed their transport routes in response to heightened enforcement operations in some regions. Traditionally ivory would be smuggled in shipping containers from southern and western Africa to Indian Ocean ports to enter the Asian markets. With better enforcement in the Indian Ocean ports the exit ports of Africa now appears to be concentrated in Eastern Africa.
There are also growing concerns that ivory smugglers are now using fishing vessel between Asia and Africa as a transport method because the fishing trawlers and boats are rarely inspected by officials.
The report concludes with 10 key points to try and relieve pressure on African elephants:
- development, training and education of tactical poacher tracking and intelligence units in all protected areas.
- develop international agreements to facilitate cross border cooperation to pursue, arrest and extradite poachers and illegal traders.
- strengthen anti-smuggling operations, customs controls and container search programmes.
- judiciary training and the practical application of ‘best practice’ techniques and methodologies for conducting investigations and joint enforcement activities.
- Address weak governance and corruption at all levels, including in customs, the military, the police, the wildlife departments and other governmental agencies.
- Reduce market demand for illegal ivory by conducting targeted and effective awareness-raising campaigns.
- Strengthen national legislation as necessary, and strictly enforce relevant provisions to eradicate illegal or unregulated domestic ivory markets.
- Maintain and improve the connectivity of elephant landscapes in Africa by increasing the extent of conservation areas and the investment in their effective management.
- Urgently assist and financially support the African Elephant Fund to enable elephant range States to improve their capacity to manage and conserve their elephant populations
- Establish sustainable funding mechanisms for the continued implementation of MIKE, ETIS and the African and Asian Elephant Database.
For some of the 8 countries singled out by CITES over their failure to act on the ivory trade the threat of sanctions could be a deciding factor. Thailand has a thriving alligator skin export market that would be curtailed if sanctions were put into place. China would also lose out with their Panda leasing agreements with zoos. At USD 1 million a year rent for a panda and a $600,000 supplementary fee if a panda gives birth the panda is a big money generator for China and that would come to an end if CITES imposes a trade ban.