Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

CITES: Divisions leave elephants vulnerable to extinction

  • Written by  Harriet Constable
  • Published in Wildlife
CITES: Divisions leave elephants vulnerable to extinction 2630ben
05 Oct
2016
A proposal calling for the highest level of protection for African elephants has failed to pass

Over 110,000 elephants have been killed in the last decade, following a steep rise in poaching, with one killed for its ivory every 15 minutes according to iworry, a campaign by conservation organisation The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Despite the critical situation for the species, the 182 member countries of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) were unable to agree on a proposal for further protection.

The proposal, submitted by 29 members making up the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) – including Kenya, Uganda and Gabon – called for all elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to be up-listed to Appendix I, thus providing all African elephants full protection.

Initially the discussions looked promising, as in an unexpected turn of events Botswana – which had previously argued against up-listing African elephants – had a change of heart and supported the AEC. A delegate from Botswana said, ‘Poaching is so intense that... although Botswana has previously supported the limited, legal ivory sales from countries that manage their elephant herds sustainably, we now recognise that we can no longer support these sales... [we] now support a total, unambiguous and permanent international ban on the ivory trade.’

The European Union’s position is shocking. Its patronising and colonialist attitude to the vast majority of African elephant range states calling for an Appendix I listing is shameful

Conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), however, opposed the up-listing arguing it could increase trade in ivory. ‘These proposals would [not] have offered elephant populations any greater protection from the poachers. Indeed, the proposal to up-list four southern African populations to Appendix I could well have opened a back door to illegal international trade,’ said Ginette Hemley, WWF Head of Delegation for CITES.

Despite arguments coming from the majority of elephant range states, the proposal failed as 44 states opposed the motion, including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the EU, which voted as a block gaining 28 votes at once.

It was the EU’s vote that swung it, according to Dr Rosalind Reeve, senior advisor to Fondation Franz Weber and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation: ‘The numbers are clear. If the EU had supported the proposal by the African Elephant Coalition, now also supported by Botswana, the Appendix I listing would have gone through. The blood of Africa’s elephants is on the EU’s hands.’

The EU’s vote against the majority of African countries caused fury among many. ‘The European Union’s position is shocking,’ said Vera Weber, President of Fondation Franz Weber. ‘Its patronising and colonialist attitude to the vast majority of African elephant range states calling for an Appendix I listing is shameful. Even Botswana has come out in favour of an up-listing to Appendix I and still, it does not listen.’

It was not a complete loss for elephants though. Proposals from Namibia and Zimbabwe to open up legal ivory trade in their countries also failed, and a decision was passed on Sunday by CITES recommending that countries ‘close their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory as a matter of urgency.’

Read Harriet Constable’s reports from the CITES conference in Johannesburg, including the decision to upgrade thresher sharks, silky sharks and devil rays to Appendix II, to upgrade critically endangered pangolins to Appendix I, or find out from Klaus Dodds about the complicated geopolitical issues associated with CITES wildlife conservation and extinction.


For more great content like this, sign up below for our FREE weekly newsletter. The best of Geographical in your inbox, every Friday afternoon!

 
 
 

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

Tourism might be an economic pillar for many countries surrounding…

Wildlife

Brain sizes directly shown to correlate to survival rates among…

Wildlife

Celebrated author Professor Tim Birkhead provides a fascinating insight into…

Oceans

The world’s most biodiverse seagrass region – Indonesia’s Coral Triangle…

Oceans

Ocean conservation group urges world governments to step up action…

Climate

As climate conditions at the 100th meridian, the traditional United…

Climate

International shipping may be attempting to reduce its carbon footprint, but…

Geophoto

So much photographic theory is dedicated to image sharpness that…

Wildlife

Changing temperatures in East Africa are set to upset a delicate…

Climate

As the planet warms and tensions rise, Marco Magrini finds that…

Oceans

A deep-sea mission in the ocean around Bermuda confirms the…

Oceans

An oxygen-deprived ‘dead zone’ in the Arabian Sea is much…

Wildlife

Scientists working with new drone technology are hoping to reveal…

Oceans

A new virtual reality experience, ‘BBC Earth: Life in VR’,…

Nature

Faced with protecting a country more than 30 times the…

Oceans

As Chile’s president leaves office, the country designates large expanses…

Energy

More than two years after first being announced, the International…

Wildlife

The winner of the 2018 Whitley Gold Award is Pablo…

Polar

Celebrate World Penguin Day with this selection of penguin-related stories…

Geophoto

It takes a lot more than the latest research data…