of the media only;
not an official document.
CITES sets strict conditions
for any possible future ivory sales
(updated for decisions on South Africa, Zambia,
Santiago de Chile, 12 November 2002 – Building on an earlier
consensus amongst most African elephant range states, the 160-member
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES) has agreed here on a rigorous regime for
controlling any eventual sales of ivory.
CITES has conditionally accepted proposals from Botswana, Namibia
and South Africa that they be allowed to make one-off sales of
20, 10 and 30 tonnes, respectively, of ivory. The ivory is held
in existing legal stocks that have been collected from elephants
that died of natural causes or as a result of government-regulated
Similar proposals from Zambia and Zimbabwe for 17 and 10 tonnes,
respectively, were not accepted. Today’s decisions by CITES
must still be formally adopted by the full Plenary on Friday,
when the current two-week conference ends.
“The African elephant is valued and admired by people
all over the world,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem
Wijnstekers. “But it is significant that today´s decision
embodies an African solution to an African problem – the
challenge of conserving the continent’s wild herds of elephants
in an age of growing human needs and population.”
“While richer countries can often afford to promote conservation
through strict protection, many poorer nations must do so in ways
that benefit local communities and bring in much-needed cash for
conservation. In the African context, a conservation strategy
based on sustainable use may offer elephants the best possible
long-term future. The key is finding solutions that benefit states
that rely on tourism as well as those that seek income from elephant
products,” he said.
Today´s agreements require any future one-off sales to
be supervised through a rigorous control system. The sales cannot
occur before May 2004 to provide time for baseline data to be
gathered on population and poaching levels and for the CITES Secretariat
to verify and register the existing stocks. The Secretariat must
also confirm whether any potential buyers can effectively regulate
their domestic ivory markets and thus are eligible for importing
the ivory. The aim of these controls is to prevent any illegal
ivory from entering into legal markets and to discourage an upsurge
Another protection built into the system is that trade can be
suspended if the CITES Standing Committee finds either an exporting
or an importing country to be in non-compliance. In addition,
trade can be stopped if there is any evidence that trade is leading
to increased poaching in other regions of Africa. Two monitoring
systems that have been established to track the illegal killing
of elephants and illegal sales of ivory will be critical to ensuring
that countries relying on tourism are not harmed by ivory sales
from countries that also rely on trade.
After banning all ivory sales in 1989, CITES agreed in 1997
to allow Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to make one-time sales
from their existing legal stocks of raw ivory. The ivory –
which weighed almost 50 tonnes and represented 5,446 tusks - was
sold to Japan in 1999 and earned some USD5 million. The funds
were used for elephant conservation activities.
For this year´s CITES conference, these three countries
plus South Africa and Zambia proposed one-off sales of existing
ivory stocks. With the exception of Zambia, these countries also
proposed that these one-off sales be followed later by annual
quotas. The original proposals were for a first sale of 20 tonnes
and an annual quota of 4 tonnes for Botswana, 10 tonnes and 2
tonnes respectively for Namibia, 30 tonnes and 2 tonnes for South
Africa and 10 tonnes and 5 tonnes for Zimbabwe. All of the requests
for annual quotas were withdrawn during the conference before
the proposals were put up for decision. Zambia had proposed a
one-off sale of 17 tonnes without annual quotas. A proposal from
India and Kenya, on the other hand, argued that further ivory
sales from African elephants should be clearly prohibited as a
precautionary measure for reducing future threats to the elephant.
On 29-31 October, just before the start of the CITES conference,
24 governments participated in an African elephant range States
Dialogue in an effort to build an African consensus on ivory.
The Dialogue resulted in amendments to the proposals for resuming
trade, including an amendment stating that Botswana, Namibia,
South Africa and Zimbabwe should be able to export their declared
stocks of raw ivory only after the conditions described above
have been met. Kenya expressed its reservation on the consensus
reached by the other states.
Much of the past decade’s debate over ivory has hinged
on whether or not the sale of ivory from legal government stocks
in one part of the continent leads to increased poaching in other
parts. Recognizing the need for reliable data on poaching and
smuggling, CITES has established two long-term monitoring systems.
The site-based system for Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants,
or MIKE, seeks to measure and identify trends in elephant poaching
in both Africa and Asia. It also aims to assess the factors driving
elephant killings and to determine whether such killings are linked
to CITES decisions. Once it is fully operational, MIKE will conduct
standardized population surveys at least once every two years
at 45 sites in Africa and 15 in Asia. It is also designed to track
the degree of law enforcement effort at these sites. MIKE is administered
by the CITES Secretariat.
The Parties also mandated a monitoring system to track illegal
trade in elephant products. This led to the development of the
Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which is operated under
the auspices of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
ETIS collects global law enforcement data on elephant product
seizures, corruption, domestic ivory markets, background economic
variables and other factors.
The 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention
started on 4 November and will conclude on 15 November. It is
being attended by some 1,200 participants from 141 governments
as well as numerous observer organizations.
Ivory in five southern African countries (metric tonnes)
||Recent annual stock growth
||Future potential annual stock growth*
||Elephant population |
* Based on 1-5% natural mortality and low crude average combined
tusk weights of 10 kg per individual.
Note to journalists:
For more information please call the CITES press team at +56-9-443-4045
or +56-9-720-3722. See also www.cites.org.
To read previous press releases, go to Archives.