Legalising international ivory trade ruled out after decade of talks

International community votes to end negotiations about allowing elephant ivory to be sold between countries amid massive rise in poaching

An elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
An elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Nearly 10 years of talks about legalising the international trade in ivory have been scrapped amid efforts to save the elephant from rampant poaching.

The population of the African elephant has fallen by more than 110,000 in just a decade, leaving a population of some 415,000.

There has been a campaign to legalise the trade in ivory, rhino horn and other animal parts, with supporters arguing that turning endangered animals into a valuable economic resource could actually help save them from extinction.

However, at an international meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), member states voted to end negotiations about a legalised international trade which began in 2007.

The European Union used its bloc vote of 28 countries to back the decision.

A European Commission (EC) spokesperson said: “In the current circumstances where poaching and trafficking levels remain at alarmingly high levels, the EU considers that there is no justification to prolong discussions on the possibility and conditions that international trade in ivory could resume in the future.

“The EU recognises the challenges faced by elephant range states and is a strong supporter of African countries for biodiversity protection and in their fights against wildlife trafficking.”

Under current rules, trade in old ivory – before the elephant became formally protected – is allowed; also domestic trade in any kind of ivory is allowed within Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

An EC source told The Independent that the EU had not excluded the idea that the debate could re-open but “only after clear indications that elephant poaching and ivory trafficking have substantially decreased”.

Two countries, Namibia and Zimbabwe, had tabled motions that sought to explore the possibility of a legal international trade. South Africa has also joined them in opposing the current international ban, which is due to expire next year.

During a debate at London’s Royal Institution ahead of the CITES meeting, South African John Hume, who has the world’s largest rhino farm, argued

“If the international ban on trade in rhino horn is seen by the world’s conservation body called CITES to be a positive strategy for all rhinos species, why has South Africa lost 6,000 rhinos to poaching in the last few years?” he said.

“These resources are the birth-right of the African people and a major avenue to uplift its people, the rural community who are the poorest of the poor and an easy target for criminals who recruit them for becoming poachers.”

But Will Travers, the president of the Born Free Foundation, hit back saying the future of some of the “world’s most iconic species” would be at risk from a legalised trade, describing the prospect as a “nightmare” for conservation efforts.

And, speaking to The Independent last week, Paul Gathitu, of the Kenya Wildlife Service, said: "The moment you start selling, you are placing a value on that ivory. And if you give a little of ivory this year, they want more next year."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in