Representatives of the following African Elephant Coalition member countries were present at the recently concluded 70th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Sochi, Russia.
The CITES National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process is an important mechanism to tackle elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.
The recent EIA report Taking Stock concluded that much work is still needed throughout Africa and Asia to protect elephants under NIAPs so we were very disappointed when China, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Thailand – who together represent nearly half of all reported ivory seizures worldwide between 2007-17 – were allowed to exit the process.
While we rightly recognise that these countries have made progress, we are concerned that this decision was taken without consulting independent experts and worry that it assumes these countries have effectively solved elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.
The reality is very different – Taking Stock highlighted key challenges remaining in the implementation of their NIAPs. For example, China is still one of the largest markets for illegal ivory; Kenya remains a major exit point for illicit ivory; Tanzania’s elephant population is a major source of illicit ivory; Thailand has yet to secure convictions for large-scale ivory seizures; and inadequate resources continue to hamper effective enforcement in Uganda.
On a more positive note, strong interventions were made by Parties such as Ethiopia, Israel, Gabon and Niger in support of conducting independent assessments under the NIAP process, which we believe are essential transparency and effectiveness.
As always, the Elephant team will refuse to let this be a setback for elephant protection and is already identifying the best way forward to strengthen the NIAP process and other CITES mechanisms to tackle ivory trade.
There was widespread support at SC70 for the worldwide closure of domestic ivory markets, with Parties recognising the role they play in fuelling illegal trade and the decline of endangered elephant populations.
A particularly passionate intervention by Senegal reminded the meeting that elephants are sentient beings and it is with this in mind we will continue working for their protection and tackling the challenging, and often politically sensitive, issues related to ivory trade.
On trade in live elephants, the SC requested the Secretariat to consult with parties whose elephants are listed in Appendix II and have exported live elephants to non-elephant range states and to seek information on how importing states made their determination on suitable housing and care.
Finally, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, China, Thailand and the Philippines, some of the world’s worst countries for poaching and illegal trade in ivory, have been allowed to exit the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process. This is a key international initiative set up to curb the mass slaughter of elephants and several of the attending NGOs strongly disagreed that these Parties have achieved their national plans on ivory trade, highlighting that important gaps remain in terms of their implementation.