As the U.S. government prepares to crush its 6 tons of confiscated ivory, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) urges other countries around the world to follow suit and destroy their own ivory stockpiles. Furthermore, with more than 35,000-and perhaps as many as 50,000-African elephants killed for their tusks every year, AWF proposes all countries implement immediate domestic moratoria on trade in ivory until all elephant populations are no longer threatened.
This new position by AWF comes in response to the changing situation on the ground. "Right now, Africa is hemorrhaging elephants," says African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin. "Elephant carcasses-the ones that are documented-lie strewn in forests, on savannas, and in national parks, and their stolen ivory flows out of Africa's airports and seaports to illegal ivory markets around the world. The only way to staunch the movement of illegal ivory is to wipe out the demand, and that begins with destroying stockpiles and stopping trade."
Destroying all stockpiled ivory and implementing domestic moratoria on ivory trade will send a message to buyers, traffickers, and suppliers of ivory that it is no longer a tradable commodity. It will remove the economic incentives that drive poaching and prevent illegal ivory from being trafficked under cover of the legalized trade-in effect wiping out the illicit ivory marketplace.
Though a 1989 ban on international trade in ivory remains in place, many countries, including China and the United States, allow raw and worked ivory to be traded domestically. That allowance, coupled with rising affluence in Asia, has precipitated an unsustainable demand for ivory-long considered a symbol of wealth and status-and created a black market for the product as demand outstrips legal supplies. Ivory procured for the black market now fetches a price higher than gold.
"Affluence in Asia and poverty in Africa have collided to create a perfect storm with elephants at the center," says Bergin. "What the rich person demands, the poor poacher provides. In between is a nefarious network of criminals, terrorists, rebels, and corrupted officials and business people only too eager to pilfer a slice of the pie."
In the 1970s and 1980s, poachers cut in half Africa's elephant population. An international outcry over the slaughter and subsequent global ivory ban gave elephants a reprieve, but the renewed assault of the past few years threatens to upend the conservation gains of the past two decades. "If we want the killing to stop, everyone-from governments of elephant range states to those of ivory consuming nations-must contribute something to the solution and send a message that enough is enough," says Jimmiel Mandima, director of U.S. government relations for the African Wildlife Foundation. More....