African countries will dominate discussions on the elephant and ivory trade during CITES

Pile of animal tusks for sale in local shop in Fenghuang Old Town Market, Hunan Province, China

  • Zimbabwe is one of the countries pushing for lifting the ban on the ivory trade in stocks.
  • Kenya asks for a fund for countries that decide to burn stocks.
  • And there is a general call for a clear picture of the live elephant trade among reports of animal cruelty.

The 19th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) began Monday in Panama City with African countries pushing for various revisions of elephant and ivory proposals and documents.

The conference will run until 25 November with 183 countries reviewing more than 100 proposals and documents submitted by governments to change the levels of protection of wild animal and plant species found in international trade.

Appendix I classification

Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Syria want elephants classified in Appendix I which examines endangered species. This classification means that trade will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.

The summary of the proposal would mean that the Loxodonta africana (African elephant) found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe must have migrated from Appendix II.

Appendix II, which currently includes African elephants, concerns species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to avoid “use incompatible with their survival”.

Stock sale

Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia want an amendment in Appendix III to allow them to sell their ivory stocks.

The proposal states that CITES has ignored “the importance of southern Africa’s elephant population and its conservation needs compared to other regions of Africa.”

But there is strong opposition to this because some countries feel there is uncertainty about the impact of trade on conservation. There is already a red list that considers African elephants “endangered”, which supports a ban on the commercial trade in ivory.

“Seventy-six percent of African elephants are found in transboundary populations, including the populations of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The species is threatened in most of the states in the area.

“The conservation of African elephants can only be effectively addressed at the continental level,” reads the document opposing the lobby.

The other resistance comes from the international ivory markets, which are global in nature and do not distinguish between countries of origin with different levels of protection or management capacity.

If the international ivory trade is reopened, it will stimulate global demand, thereby threatening all elephant populations.

Destruction of stocks

Benin, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Senegal and Togo ask for the identification of Member States which have not adequately reported the level of stocks within their territory, or which have not adequately guaranteed those stocks.

These member states are also pushing for countries to consider destroying their stocks.

The rationale is that “the level of ivory stocks around the world is growing and poses a serious threat to elephants through the spillage of ivory into the illegal trade, which perpetuates the ongoing demand and markets for ivory.”

In 2019, ivory seizures raised concerns about the origin of the ivory and whether part of the seized ivory leaked from the stocks.

“Continued maintenance of ivory stocks sends the signal that future ivory sales are expected. Destruction of ivory and overshooting ivory stocks beyond commercial use will help neutralize expectations about future ivory trade and discourage markets. future “, they say.

READ | Southern African countries agree to push for an increase in international ivory trade

But Kenya, a country that has burned its stocks, wants a fund for countries that dispose of their stocks in non-commercial ways.

“The fund would avoid the need for commercial ivory sales or acquisitions by providing funding to support human-elephant conservation and coexistence initiatives.

“For years, offers to open trade in ivory from stocks have generated controversy and signaled that global ivory trade could be restored. This signals the demand for ivory products, increasing the pressure of poaching on elephant populations.” , reads the Kenya proposal.

Live elephant trade

Member States will also discuss the creation of a legal framework for the trade in live African elephants. Benin, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger, Senegal and Togo want to limit the trade in live African elephants taken from the wild to in situ conservation programs or protect areas in the wild, within the natural and historical area of ​​the especially in Africa.

The rationale behind this lobby is due to 216 animals exported from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini and Tanzania between 2010 and 2022.

The trade has generated a lot of heat, and some reportedly died while being captured, en route, and upon arrival at their destination.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. Stories produced through the Africa Desk and the views and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation

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