Ivory sales boost elephant poaching–as predicted
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2012:
GENEVA, JOHANNESBURG— Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species secretary-general John Scanlon on February 29, 2012 reportedly expressed “grave concern” that as many as 450 elephants were poached in Bouba Ndjida National Park, northern Cameroon, during the first 60 days of 2012. Earlier, the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Investigation Agency reported the poaching of as many as 50 elephants a month in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania.
Elephant poaching appears to have accelerated following a record number of seizures of illegally trafficked elephant tusks, worldwide, in 2011, including 13 seizures of more than a metric ton of ivory, up from six in 2010. The tusks confiscated in 2011 came from at least 2,500 elephants. “Some of the seized tusks came from old stockpiles, the elephants having been killed years ago,” reported Michelle Faul of Associated Press. But the leakage from presumably closely guarded ivory stockpiles indicated high-level corruption in the nations of origin.
Ivory poaching exploded across Africa after CITES in July 2008 authorized Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to sell a combined total of 119 metric tons of elephant ivory to China.
“Allowing new ivory to be imported into China will stimulate demand and create loopholes for illegal ivory to be laundered into the legal market,” predicted International Fund for Animal Welfare program director Peter Pueschel, citing experience with previous one-time sales of stockpiled ivory in the years since CITES suspended international sales of elephant ivory in 1989.
Kenya-based ivory trade investigators Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne found in mid-2011 that ivory sales in China had soared, as predicted. “Not only is the demand soaring, but 63% of the ivory is illegal and law enforcement is minimal,” summarized Mary Powys, spokesperson for the Elephant Family, of London.
“In the past seven years the number of ivory carving factories [in China] has increased from 9 to 36, and ivory product sales offices have grown from 31 to 137,” reported People’s Daily on December 14, 2011. “A complete ban [on ivory sales] is the only way to stop the killing of innocent wildlife and end the deadly ivory trade for good,” People’s Daily concluded, citing “many officials and animal activists.”
IFAW European Union director Lesley O’Donnell attributed the Cameroon poaching to “incursions by armed gangs from Sudan, to raise money for arms purchases for use in regional conflicts– particularly ongoing unrest in Sudan and in the Central African Republic.”
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrigues hinted in a March 14, 2012 bulletin that the next elephant massacre might occur in the Chiredzi River Conservancy. “Despite numerous reports and photos supplied to the authorities, destruction of the conservancy by illegal settlers continues unabated,” Rodrigues wrote. “It is now alleged that the settlers are putting together a petition to present to Parliament requesting that all the elephants be shot as they are destroying their crops. This is a very strange request in view of the fact that crops can’t be grown in this arid, unarable area.”