The New Zealand Select Committee Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade announced today their decision on the petition of Auckland teacher Ms Virginia Woolf that calls for a ban on all ivory trading within, to and from New Zealand and to crush the nations confiscated ivory stockpile.
The Report of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee states, “We support the petitioners in their goal. New Zealand is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In fulfilment of one of its obligations under the convention, trade in illegal ivory is prohibited by statute within its borders.”
Also recognized in the Committee’s Report is “that poaching and the illegal trade in ivory is driving the destruction of our largest land mammal as well as funding conflict in Africa. Demand for ivory needs to stop. Achieving this will require pressure from the international community.”
Petition author, Ms Woolf says “I am relieved that the Select Committee supports the petition’s goals” adding, “it is so important that the Committee has recognized the devastating effects of the illegal ivory trade on elephants and the links to international organized crime.”
The Committee’s Report, “calls on the Government to push for the full implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In particular, it should push for the resumption of a full ban on the sale of ivory that was established by the convention in 1989.”
In terms of the specific detail around what the Committee’s decision will mean in practice, Ms Woolf believes further clarification will be needed. Ms Woolf hopes that the Government’s actions will include a focus on addressing the domestic ivory trade and demand for ivory in New Zealand too, saying “it’s important because, when the buying stops the killing can too.”
While the Committee’s Report states, “Evidence from the United Nations indicates there is almost no domestic ivory trade in New Zealand,” Ms Woolf is concerned that while the domestic ivory trade here may be small in comparison to other nations, “there is still a demand for ivory that needs to be addressed.”
Mrs Fiona Gordon, author of “A Report on the New Zealand Trade in Ivory 1980 – 2012,” says “My Report focused on import and re-export data, however, it also included the results of preliminary research on the domestic trade for ivory in New Zealand. Webb’s Auction house reported that the ivory market continued to boom in 2012, with competition driving prices well in excess of estimates.” Ms Gordon notes “official trade data indicates that our re-exports of ivory have increased substantially during 2010 – 2012.”
That report was submitted as supporting documentation to Ms Woolf’s petition and highlighted 12 specific ivory trade issues. “These issues still need to be investigated,” Ms Woolf says, “I am hopeful that the Select Committee’s decision at this point has opened the door for these more detailed discussions to occur”.
Humbled by the support the petition has received, Ms Woolf is most grateful to all the signatories to the petition itself, the many loyal supporters in the social media community, and the assistance of the organisers of the Global March for Elephants and Rhino. In addition to the petition, the recent open letter to the New Zealand Government from prominent New Zealanders and key international conservation agencies was “fortuitous and timely and certainly appears to have strengthened the interest in the petition around the world,” Ms Woolf says, adding “ I cannot thank the open letter signatories enough for directly urging the government to fully consider a full ban of the ivory trade and to crush the nation’s confiscated ivory stockpile.”
Signatory to the open letter, David Thomson, Board Chair of African Wildlife Foundation, explained just recently, “The international conservation community is asking New Zealand to stop all trade in ivory and to burn or crush it’s accumulated stockpile as a defining public statement that it cares for the survival of elephants. When it does, and the conservation community hopes it’s very soon, it will join the U.S., France, Gabon, Chad, China, Hong Kong, Kenya, Zambia, Philippines and Belgium who have crushed their confiscated stockpiles and with that action shouted loudly that ‘only elephants should wear ivory’.
Ms Woolf hopes that the Government will move to action sooner rather than later too, ever mindful that “one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for it’s ivory.” She is encouraged that the publicity around the petition has generated much needed awareness in New Zealand, and raised further awareness internationally, on the ongoing plight of African elephant.
Ms Woolf says that the Committee’s decision has “restored her faith in the democratic process”, emphasising “petitions are an important avenue that the public has to make legislative change, so it must be used to its full advantage.” Ms Woolf considers the response by the Committee is a step in the right direction over ivory trading and “demonstrates that they have taken the issue seriously.”
With World Animal Day later this year on 4th October, 113 cities around the world, including Auckland and Wellington, will march to raise further awareness of the ongoing plight of many endangered species including rhinos, elephants, lions, Maui Dolphins, and sharks. Ms Woolf thinks this will be a good time to “keep the pressure on the government over endangered wildlife and wildlife trading issues.”