Opinion Former Article

2013 A Dismal Year for Elephants - Glimmer of Hope for 2014

(London – 20 December 2013) - More than 41 tonnes of elephant ivory have been seized in 2013, the largest quantity in 25 years.

However, the fact that up to 50,000 elephants a year are now being slaughtered for their ivory seems to have shocked world leaders out of their ennui and into action to halt poaching and ivory trafficking.

“Ivory poaching has grown way out of control in recent years, with large scale seizures (those weighing more than 800 kgs) becoming the norm rather than the exception,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of Wildlife Trade for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

“So far this year we have seen 18 large scale seizures with a total of 41.5 tonnes of ivory reported confiscated, significantly up on 2011 when there were 14 large seizures measuring an estimated 24.3 tonnes.”

Alie said public demand for action to stop the slaughter and killing of elephants had pressured world leaders into taking action to save elephants.

“Wildlife crime ranks among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of international crimes along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales,” he said. “In the past months we’ve seen an encouraging increase in the numbers of seizures of ivory and more international cooperation to act for elephants than ever before,” he said.

“Unfortunately these successes highlight the extent of the problem – up to 50,000 elephants a year are being killed for their ivory. If we are to save elephants we need to address every link in the ivory chain. That means stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking and stopping the demand.”

Earlier this month delegates to the IUCN African Elephant Summit in Botswana committed to classifying wildlife trafficking as a ‘serious crime’. This unlocks international law enforcement opportunities that will make life that much harder for criminals.

“From a public awareness point of view the destruction of a stockpile of six tonnes of illegal ivory by the United States, France’s announcement that it will soon destroy three tonnes of ivory, and the UK Government’s announcement that London is to host an international summit on illegal wildlife crime, send a powerful message to criminals that people are tired of elephants being killed for ivory that no one needs,” said Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as ‘white gold’. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organisation recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

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