Tackling Illegal Ivory Trade

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Measures are agreed by African and Asian nations.

An African elephant

African and Asian nations on December 3rd agreed on urgent measures to tackle the illegal ivory trade, from the slaughter of elephants to the trafficking of their valuable tusks to the Far East.

The deal comes after top officials and experts from 30 states met in Botswana to tackle an upsurge in elephant poaching as demand for ivory soars from countries such as China and Thailand.

Countries that are home to elephants, and those where their ivory ends up, agreed to “urgent measures to halt the illegal trade and secure elephant populations across Africa,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Botswanan government said in a statement.

The measures include a “zero tolerance approach”, which includes maximum sentences for wildlife crimes and boosting the ability of national agencies to deal with highly-organised poaching syndicates.

The meeting also agreed that ivory trafficking should be classified as a “serious crime”, paving the way for international cooperation such as mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, and extradition.

“The summit is the first-ever meeting focusing on the dynamics of the entire ivory value chain,” the statement said.

Conservation groups at the African Elephant Summit warned Africa could lose 20 % of its elephant population within a decade.

Six countries signed the pact but all 30 states attending the summit agreed on the measures and committed to inking the deal, Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, said.

Among those who agreed to the measures were key elephant nations such as Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia, transit countries Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand.

These countries will strengthen co-operation between their law enforcement agencies and create mechanisms at home to “allow immediate action” against anyone involved in poaching or the illegal ivory trade.

According to a report by CITES, TRAFFIC and IUCN, an estimated 22,000 elephants were illegally killed across the continent in 2012, as poaching reached “unacceptably elevated levels.”

“We are very pleased with the result of the summit, especially as it involves some of the most important countries along the illegal ivory value chain,” said Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general.

Africa’s elephant population is estimated at 500,000 animals, compared with 1.2m in 1980 and 10m in 1900, and they are listed as vulnerable.

“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act,” said Botswana President Ian Khama whose country holds Africa’s largest elephant population. “Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species.”

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