Mary Rice: 'One-off' legal sale has done nothing to halt smuggling

Share
Related Topics

The ivory trade is a polarised issue. It is also complicated by the raft of conflicting messages reverberating worldwide every time the members of Cites (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) meet to discuss, and often agree, changes to the rules governing international trade in elephant ivory. There are too many elephants. Elephants are endangered. International ivory trade is forbidden.

However, if you are in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Japan and China you can legally buy ivory, but you can't take it out of the country – although in Namibia and Zimbabwe, if it is for "non-commercial" purposes (an oxymoron if ever I heard one), then as long as it is accompanied by a Cites certificate you can pop it in your bag and bring it home. Confused? You should be.

And you are in the company of thousands of enforcement officers worldwide as well as thousands of poachers and traders who think it is open season and open market.

Before 1989 and the international ban on ivory trade, elephant poaching was rampant and the trade in ivory out of control. In recognition of the disaster on their doorsteps, African countries and conservationists called for an immediate ban. A handful of countries did not agree and since 1989 we have seen a slow chipping away at the conditions on trade: these African elephant range states want a full resumption of ivory trade. The majority do not.

And whilst we argue about the pros and cons of the ivory trade we are witnessing a new onslaught on African elephant populations – as well as the more beleaguered Asian elephants. As evidenced by the increasing numbers of large seizures of ivory, the involvement of trans-national syndicates means that we are dealing with highly organised international criminals cashing in on the widely publicised demand for ivory which was given credence by the second "one-off" legal sale of more than 110 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to China and Japan.

We were assured that flooding the market with this "legalised" ivory would satisfy the demand and bring down the price making it unprofitable to deal in illegal ivory. An interesting notion.

Since January of this year, we have seen two large seizures – one tonne seized in Thailand from Uganda and more than six tonnes from Tanzania seized in Vietnam. That equates to at least 700 elephants. The Vietnam case is an investigator's dream because of the sheer quantity of evidence. It is an international crime spanning at least three countries, two continents and involving countless individuals in what is clearly a sophisticated criminal network and it needs to be tackled as such.

Mary Rice is executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
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
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?