The CITES Secretariat has recommended that Tanzania’s elephant and ivory proposal be rejected, citing concerns about poaching and enforcement.
Tanzania was pushing to weaken international protection for African elephants and promote trade in nearly 90 tonnes of ivory.
However, in an evaluation of the Panel of Experts reports, the Secretariat recommended supporting the Zambian ivory trade proposal, and the downlisting of elephants to Appendix II.
These developments took place at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which is taking place until March 25 at the Sheraton Doha.
Tanzania and Zambia have submitted proposals seeking permission for a one-off sale of a total of 112 tonnes of ivory, hoping to open the door for future ivory trade by “down-listing” their elephant populations, which would mean that these elephants will lose the highest levels of protection.
The Appendix II of CITES includes species that are not threatened with extinction but may become threatened by international trade without strict monitoring and control.
The CITES Secretariat expressed concern about enforcement and compliance in Tanzania while rejecting the proposal.
“Anti-poaching efforts in some parts of the country (Tanzania) seem inadequate, the ivory stocks cannot be fully verified, and controls of illegal trade in raw ivory originating from or transiting through Tanzania appear to be unsatisfactory,” the Secretariat said.
“Parties need to apply their own rigorous evaluations of the Panel of Experts reports as neither proposal meets the biological criteria for downlisting,” International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Southern Africa director Jason Bell-Leask said.
Both populations have suffered significant declines over the past three decades and there is evidence to suggest that these populations are still recovering from intensive poaching in the 1980’s, he observed.
At the last CITES conference in 2007, a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory was agreed upon.
Shelley Waterland, programmes manager of the Born Free Foundation and chairwoman of the Species Survival Network’s Elephant Working Group, stated yesterday: “Institutional corruption, the loss of more than 30,000 elephants in just three years, inadequate security measures, and the impact that ivory trade would have on the security of elephants across the continent all justify rejection of the Tanzania proposal.”
The African Elephant Coalition of 23 African elephant range countries oppose the proposals for the downlistings and one-off sales, insisting that the nine-year resting period provides all African range states the opportunity to co-operatively secure elephants in their habitat.