Letter: Save elephants from new slaughter

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The Independent Online
Sir: In line with Robin Cook's declaration that UK foreign policy should be guided by the twin principles of the environment and human rights, we strongly oppose the down-listing of elephants from Appendix I to Appendix II as proposed by Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia for the conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to be held in Zimbabwe on 9-20 June. We urge the government to maintain Britain's support of elephant conservation at this critical time by voting in favour of the ivory ban and the retention of elephants on Appendix I.

The Appendix I listing has resulted in a dramatic decline in poaching in the majority of elephant range states and the stabilisation of elephant populations in many. It has led to a marked decline in the demand for ivory in the majority of range states and consuming states. It has removed the opportunity to launder poached ivory into the legal international trade. It has increased employment and economic benefits to communities, particularly though the development of wildlife-based tourism.

UK leadership was at the forefront of banning the ivory trade at the Cites conference in Lausanne 1989. It is critical to act now before thousands of elephants are slaughtered once again.

Acceptance of the down-listing of elephant populations would result in a resurgence of poaching and a massive decline in elephant populations, the legitimisation of the international ivory trade, thereby encouraging ivory poachers and illegal traders, even with a zero quota, and the proliferation of firearms and increased corruption.

Many of the arguments advanced for down-listing are based on the concept of elephant over-population, in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary. Appendix I has been in effect for only seven years, an insufficient period in terms of elephant ecology to allow any viable consideration of resumed trade. The value of Zimbabwe's ivory stockpile gathered over seven years, even if applied solely to conservation, would finance its wildlife department for only 15 weeks. By contrast, tourism earns for the same government 60 times the value of the stockpile in one year.

These huge and impressive animals have an intrinsic worth beyond any consideration of their ability to "pay their way" in the global marketplace.

MIKE SMALL

Centre for Continuing Education, University of Edinburgh

SABA DOUGLAS-HAMILTON

Save the Elephants, Nairobi, Kenya

GLENTON COOMBES

Senior Pilot, Lamu Region

Kenya Wildlife Service

ELSPETH MURRAY

BEN MURRAY

Edinburgh

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