Countries vote to maintain international ivory trade ban at CITES conference
Delegates at the world's largest wildlife trade conference overwhelmingly rejected proposals by Namibia and Zimbabwe to re-open trade in their ivory. Countries also narrowly rejected a proposal to uplist elephant populations in four southern African countries - Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe - to Appendix I.
“These decisions have closed all potential avenues to a resumption in international ivory trade, paving the way for the world to unite behind efforts to crack down on the illegal ivory trade," said Ginette Hemley, WWF Head of Delegation at CITES. "African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would have complicated efforts to conserve them."
The votes come a day after countries from around the world called for the closure of domestic ivory markets and backed the CITES-led National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process.
"Rather than vote to resume trade, countries here at CITES rightly chose to reinforce the existing global ban on ivory trade by calling for the closure of domestic ivory markets and strengthening the national ivory action plan process," said Hemley. "These are critical actions for securing the future of Africa's elephants."
CITES Parties called on nations where there is a legal domestic ivory market that is contributing to illegal trade to take all necessary legislative, regulatory and enforcement measures to close their markets as a matter of urgency.
The non-binding decision recognizes that narrow exemptions for some ivory items may be warranted, but that such exemptions should not contribute to poaching or illegal trade.
“After hours of grueling negotiations behind closed doors, WWF is very pleased to see that countries have now united behind a deal that strengthens the national ivory action plan process, which is absolutely central to the global fight against the illegal ivory trade,” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF Global Wildlife Policy Manager.
Critically, none of the Appendix proposals that the conference rejected would have offered elephant populations any greater protection from the poachers. Indeed, the proposal to uplist four southern African populations to Appendix I could well have opened a back door to legal international trade.