The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS)


What is ETIS?

As its name suggests, ETIS is a tool used to compile law enforcement data on seizures and confiscations of elephant specimens. Its main database holds details of such seizures that have occurred anywhere in the world since 1989. It shares the objectives similar to those of MIKE, as set out in Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16), with the difference that its aim is to record and analyse levels and trends in illegal trade, rather than in hunting.

1. Background

The Conference of the Parties adopted Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens (9-20 June 1997, Harare, Zimbabwe), which was later revised at the at subsequent meetings of the Conference of the Parties, most recently at CoP16 (Bangkok, 2013). Among other things, it calls for the establishment, under the supervision and direction of the Standing Committee, of a comprehensive international system to monitor the illegal trade in elephant specimens.

The objectives of this monitoring system are:

i) measuring and recording current levels and trends of illegal trade … in African and Asian range States and in trade entrepots;

ii) assessing whether and to what extent observed trends are a result of changes in the listing of elephant populations in the CITES appendices and/or the resumption of legal international trade in ivory; and

iii) establishing an information base to support the making of decisions on appropriate remedial action in the event of any problems with compliance or potential detriment to the species.

Annex 1 of the Resolution specifies how the monitoring of illegal trade in ivory and other elephant specimens is to be conducted. Specifically, the monitoring system is required to include the details of law enforcement records for seizures or confiscations of elephant specimens which have occurred anywhere in the world since 1989. Clearly, the Resolution envisages that the monitoring system will become the international instrument for monitoring the pattern and measuring the scale of illegal trade in elephant specimens.

TRAFFIC’s Bad Ivory Database System (BIDS) was designated as the appropriate instrument for these purposes, and the CITES Parties were mandated to communicate information on elephant ivory and other elephant product seizures to TRAFFIC via the CITES Secretariat.

2. Progress to date

Significant progress has been achieved since the adoption of the Resolution.

With the approval of the Standing Committee, TRAFFIC’s BIDS database has evolved into a more sophisticated monitoring tool called the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). TRAFFIC subjected BIDS to an external evaluation process, the results of which were refined at a workshop of technical experts convened in Nairobi, Kenya in December 1997.

At its 40th meeting (March 1998) the CITES Standing Committee approved the basic design elements of ETIS. At that meeting, the Standing Committee agreed to make available CHF 30,000, from the CITES Trust Fund, to assist in the technical refinement and further development of ETIS.

To assist in the provision of information, the Secretariat circulated an "Ivory and Elephant Product Seizure Data Collection Form" to all Parties in Notification to the Parties No. 1998/10 on 31 March 1998. In reporting ivory seizures and confiscations, this form is to be completed and returned to the CITES Secretariat for transmission to TRAFFIC. Through Notification to the Parties No. 1999/36, of 30 April 1999, the Secretariat also circulated Explanatory Notes for the "Ivory and Elephant Product Seizure Data Collection Form". Through Notification to the Parties No. 1999/92, of 30 November 1999, these documents were re-circulated as a reminder.

A functional specification outlining the theory, structure and practical application of ETIS was produced by consultants at the University of Reading’s Statistical Services Centre. This facilitated the development of document Inf. SC.41.1 Development of the CITES Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), presented at the 41st meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (Geneva, February 1999).

A new MS/ACCESS-based, ETIS software programme for the seizures database was designed and installed at the TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa regional office in Lilongwe, Malawi by technical consultants of the University of Reading's Statistical Services Centre. The database structure features a core seizures database held by TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa in Lilongwe, Malawi. A complimentary database on law enforcement effort is under development and will be housed at TRAFFIC International in Cambridge, U.K. Other subsidiary databases on related background information will be developed as appropriate.

The first step in making ETIS fully operational involved the conversion of all previous data from the former BIDS system into the new programme.

In the period between the 10th and 11th meetings of the Conference of the Parties, progress was made in the development of ETIS. One of the problems encountered was that levels of reporting to ETIS by Parties have been low. Nevertheless, at its 11th meeting, the Conference of the Parties reaffirmed its commitment to MIKE and ETIS as useful tools for building a platform of knowledge from which to make sound decisions within CITES regarding elephant trade.

3. The funding for ETIS

3.1 Support already provided

Substantial support has already been given to TRAFFIC, to implement ETIS, by various donors. The amounts concerned are as follows:








70,000 CHF

Redesigning BIDS assessment/operation



2,300 CHF

BIDS data input



4,200 CHF

BIDS evaluation


CITES Trust Fund

30,000 CHF

ETIS development/data collection form/software



103,200 CHF

ETIS installation/operation/computer purchases

3.2 Cost estimates

The current estimate of costs for each of the main components of ETIS, for the period 2000 to 2002, is provided in the table below. The maintenance and further development of ETIS will cost c.CHF 456,000 (over this three year period).




YEAR 2000

YEAR 2001

YEAR 2002

































4. Future developments for ETIS

TRAFFIC has produced individual country reports that present all seizures in the database that occurred in, or involved a national of the country in question. The ETIS Country Reports are referenced to specific periods of time, and provide a tabular summary of all cases where ivory or other elephant products were seized or confiscated either in, coming from, or going to a particular country, or any other cases where nationals of a particular country were identified as involved as a suspect in an ivory seizure that occurred elsewhere in the world. TRAFFIC has three objectives in providing these reports. Firstly, it is important to begin the feedback loop in the process so that each country is aware of its status in the ivory trade. Secondly, TRAFFIC hopes to provide a means for individual countries to validate, update, or otherwise comment on individual cases in the data base. Thirdly, TRAFFIC hopes to identify deficiencies in the manner in which data are presently being reported from each country so that steps can be taken at the national level to improve the quality of data that are being reported as part of the ETIS process. This effort should engender incentives for greater participation in the future.

The other major activity will be the development of the subsidiary databases in ETIS, particularly one on law enforcement effort at the national level, which has not progressed satisfactorily. The primary reason for this has been the fact that it was originally envisaged at the technical workshop (Nairobi, December 1997) that comparative data on law enforcement effort and performance on a country-by-country basis would be available through co-operative (and probably confidential) arrangements with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. In fact, this has not been possible and TRAFFIC is now reassessing how to develop alternative indicators to achieve this purpose. TRAFFIC International has held considerable discussions with the CITES Secretariat about possible formal avenues for collection of enforcement effort and effectiveness data. The conclusion reached is that no existing relevant data sources are available to ETIS and that a stand-alone data collection activity will be required. In consultation with the CITES Secretariat and other relevant experts, TRAFFIC will develop a questionnaire for circulation to the Parties by the CITES Secretariat on a periodic basis to collect the required information. A database format for storage of this information is under development and the new ETIS software will integrate enforcement effort and effectiveness indicators into the overall analysis of seizure information.

Concerning data collection through the CITES process, it appears that many more seizures are occurring than are being reported to the Secretariat through the ETIS data collection process. Within Africa, the lack of response seems to be related to internal capacity and understanding. There is a need to promote better understanding about the requirements of ETIS and to support the development of national-level data collection protocols to support better implementation of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16).

5. Summary report

The following report on the status of the Elephant Trade Information System(ETIS) has been prepared by Tom Milliken and Louisa Sangalakula of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa.

1. Introduction
2. Development of the monitoring system
3. Operation and management of ETIS
4. ETIS seizures database summary
5. Conclusions and recommendations