Vigilance Over Elephants Vital In Wake Of Ivory Sales, Says AWF

Vigilance Over Elephants Vital In Wake Of Ivory Sales, Says AWF

Nations and conservationists must step up their vigilance against illegal ivory sales and the poaching of elephants in the wake of the Nov. 15 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to allow one-time ivory sales by Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) said today.

The 41-year-old conservation organization which 14 years ago helped lead a successful campaign to impose a moratorium on international commercial trade in elephant ivory, warned in a statement that "there is evidence that illegal sales of ivory, corruption in potential producing, buying and transit countries, and the killing of elephants for bush meat are all significant trends which are not being reversed and which have dire implications for the future of the African elephant."

AWF said it could appreciate the desire of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to use a one-time sale of ivory from legal stockpiles to create resources for elephant conservation and improve local economies. Such stockpiles were created as elephants died of natural causes or as a result of government-regulated control of problem animals. However, said the group's president, Patrick J. Bergin, even these limited sales, scheduled for 2004, may be premature.

"The science-based mechanism which have been proposed to monitor, control and protect elephants such as the Elephant Trade Information Systems (ETIS) and Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) are not up to speed for lack of adequate financial support and they are no where near producing the kind of information that is needed to document the status of elephants in key countries," he asserted. "In addition, it must be recognized that most of southern Africa's elephants live in trans-frontier ecosystems in which regional cooperation is needed to ensure sound conservation management."

In light of those concerns, AWF's position at the CITES meeting in Santiago, Chile was opposed to new sales of ivory at this time. AWF had also called for the withdrawal of proposals to sell ivory by Zimbabwe and Zambia given current conservation conditions in those countries. These two proposals were rejected by the conference.