China's thirst for ivory is a death sentence for Africa's elephants

Now the slaughter of elephants is worse than at any time since 1989

Share
Related Topics

Across Africa, elephants are now being slaughtered in unprecedented numbers, in one of the greatest wildlife catastrophes the world has ever seen – a frenzy of killing sparked by the insatiable demand for ivory for the Chinese market. 

No one knows exactly how many African elephants are left. Analyses suggest that the 2007 estimates of 400,000 to 600,000 animals are wildly inaccurate, with some believing the number is no higher than 400,000 and possibly as low as 250,000.  With numbers being killed now as high as 52,000 annually, according to a recent estimate by the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, time is running out for these amazing creatures.

Yet the demand that is driving this disaster was itself given a disastrous impetus by a decision five years ago to let China become an ‘Approved Ivory  Trading State’ – a ‘licensed buyer’ of ivory, in a  supposed ‘one-off’ legal sale of ivory from four southern African countries, whose elephant populations were then considered healthy.

People seem to have forgotten this decision, especially those that gave it the strongest support at the time.  It was made by the Standing Committee of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the UN body which is supposed to regulate international wildlife trade.

Many environmental and conservation groups, such as my own Environmental  Investigation Agency, warned that the consequences would be catastrophic  -  that the creation of a legal market for ivory in China would let the illegal market flourish as never before. We predicted that giving China legal ivory imports would mean a death sentence for many of Africa’s elephants as it would lead to massive increase in poaching to satisfy the new Chinese demand.

All this has sadly come to pass.  The horrible consequences are clear, with the slaughter of elephants across Africa worse than at any time since 1989 when the international ivory trade was banned by CITES  in response to an earlier elephant  poaching catastrophe.

The 2008 decision was a terrible misjudgement. It was outrageous – and so was the fact, which has also been forgotten, that the British Government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown actively supported it.

Today Britain has an added responsibility to help stop the elephant slaughter and to end the demand for ivory by taking action to ban the domestic ivory market across Europe, the US, Japan and of course China.  It is for Britain now to make up for its terrible blunder in 2008 by leading the fight against the crisis, which may see the African elephant, one of the world's most charismatic animals, driven to extinction.

Allan Thornton is founder and chair of EIA Limited UK

You can read more about the Independent's Christmas campaign here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn