Demand for ivory killing 4,000 elephants each year

Posted: 17 September 2004

More than four thousand elephants are being slaughtered each year to meet the demand for ivory from Africa and Asia, further threatening its numbers, warns a new report.

African elephants, Etosha National Park, Namibia. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
African elephants, Etosha National Park, Namibia. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
African elephant, Loxodonta africana. Breeding herd on the move. Etosha National Park, Namibia© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
The report says the impact is particularly bad in Central Africa, where elephant populations are threatened by poaching.

The report, Monitoring of Illegal Hunting in Elephant Range States is published by CITES secretariat which regulates the international trade in endangered animals and plants. It comes as TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, publishes a list of the world's countries most implicated in the illegal ivory trade.

China, followed by Thailand, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria are the most important suppliers, manufacturers and customers of illegal ivory, according to data from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS)

The data is based on the statistical analysis of more than 9,400 elephant product seizure records held by ETIS, which says that the volume of illegal ivory seizures across the world has increased since 1995.

'Thriving illegal trade'

Corruption and the lack of law enforcement of domestic ivory markets in Africa and Asia are fuelling the thriving illegal international trade, which happens under the guise of legal trading of domestic ivory within the borders of individual countries.

Forest Elephant killed by poachers, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Replublic. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Forest Elephant killed by poachers, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Replublic. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Forest elephant killed by poachers is inspected by game guards. Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Replublic© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
"These domestic markets are driving the poaching of thousands of elephants each year, both in Africa and Asia," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF's Global Species Programme. "With just three weeks to go before the world comes together to look at the problems of international wildlife trade, we call upon all countries, including the host country of Thailand, to close down these illegal markets."

While the demand for ivory from China is the overriding reason for the global rise in illegal trade between 1995 and 2004, the ETIS report notes that for the past two years improved law enforcement has resulted in increased ivory seizures and better monitoring. The report also calls on Thailand to tighten its laws regulating domestic ivory markets, which according to WWF are totally inadequate to tackle the country's flourishing ivory trade.

Lax legislation

Elephant ivory, from African elephants, confiscated from poachers. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Elephant ivory, from African elephants, confiscated from poachers. © WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Elephant ivory, from African elephants, confiscated from poachers© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Within Africa, where the illegal ivory trade remains rampant, there have been no improvements in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon over the past two years. Furthermore, Angola, Mozambique, and Sudan, are emerging as problem countries.

"This is not a new problem" said Dr P.J. Stephenson, Co-ordinator of WWF's African Elephant Programme, "but we need a new way of tackling it. Illegal ivory markets are having a major impact on elephant populations, particularly in west and central Africa, and co-ordinated action needs to be taken to bring them under control." The report also criticises the US for lax regulation of its ivory market and Singapore for failing to report any ivory seizures in recent years.

WWF is calling on countries at the upcoming CITES meeting in Bangkok next month (October 2-14) to increase their commitment to law enforcement and close legal loopholes to help shut down the trade.

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