By Katarzyna Nowak et al.
At the upcoming 16th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP), a new decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory is on the agenda. The decision to adopt such a mechanism was made at CoP14 (The Hague, 2007) on the back of approved one-off ivory sales and prior to the elephant poaching crisis escalating as it has.
We have now reached a time of reckoning for elephants, given general agreement that they are losing their lives at an unprecedented rate to sustain an archaic tradition of ivory use. However, a regulated, legal trade is not the way forward. Here, we lay out some of the reasons.
We refer to Decision Making Mechanisms for a Process of Trade in Ivory (DMM), a report commissioned by the CITES Secretariat (to Martin et al., 2012), and to a letter (November 22, 2012) by IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) member and economist, Daniel Stiles, in The Ecologist written in response to Mary Rice of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The pro-trade stance of the authors of the DMM is well-documented, while Stiles is known for views both pro and con, and Mary Rice is staunchly anti-trade. Both Stiles and the authors of the DMM, at least as the document currently stands, argue that a regulated trade in ivory is both possible and can protect elephants. We comprehensively disagree.
Recent published discussions of the DMM are economical with the truth in their description of the ivory trade. Market research with conservationist Esmond Bradley-Martin, like that of the EIA, demonstrates that the main cause for rising ivory prices is demand in China.
Demand is exacerbated by the hoarding of 'legal' ivory by the Chinese government and weak enforcement mechanisms that allow illegal ivory to be laundered into the legal domestic market to such an extent that illegal ivory now represents up to 90% of sales. More....