As negotiations begin on March 7th on the fate of African elephants at the CITES conference in Bangkok, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and Robert Hepworth, former Head of the UK delegation to CITES and Chair of the CITES Standing Committee (1997-2000) and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Migratory Species (2004-2009), appeal to all delegates to implement an urgent, indefinite and comprehensive ban on ivory trade including all domestic markets.
The current catastrophic poaching crisis – the worst since the 1980s - and over 20 years experience of failed legal trading regimes should have taught CITES that “enough is enough”.
“No one needs ivory products, but we all need to save elephants - and their habitats - from extinction and the plague of poaching.”
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APPEAL FROM FORMER CHAIR OF CITES STANDING COMMITTEE
ON ELEPHANTS AND IVORY TRADE
I write to you to express my deep concern about the crisis facing elephants and the discussions and negotiations in Bangkok at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES.
As one of the original negotiators of the Harare Compromise in 1997, and Chair of the CITES Standing Committee which implemented controlled ivory sales in 1999, I believe that we have given a legal ivory trade regime every opportunity to prove its value to conservation for more than 20 years. It has manifestly failed.
Many thousands of elephants – as well as wildlife wardens and guards - have paid for that experiment with their lives.
When I was helping to implement the CMS Agreement on West African forest elephants in 2005-9 it was already becoming clear that ivory trade and wildlife conservation are incompatible.
Now is the time to say "enough is enough" and decide to implement an urgent, indefinite and comprehensive ban on ivory trade including domestic markets.
No one needs ivory products, but we all need to save elephants - and their habitats - from extinction and the plague of poaching.
Moreover, attention and energy must be diverted away from any discussions concerning a decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory and focused on the formidable fight ahead to stop the needless killing.
Any discussions in Bangkok, or in the Standing Committee following CoP16, concerning the development of a decision-making mechanism sends the wrong signal to speculators and the black market for elephant ivory.
It stimulates demand and risks accelerating the demise of elephants and ultimately their extinction in the wild, or at least in many range states, within the foreseeable future.
Head of the UK delegation to CITES (CoP10 and CoP11), Chair of the CITES Standing Committee (1997-2000) and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Migratory Species (2004-2009)