The Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has suspended the export of 60 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa because of shortcomings in the system to monitor elephant populations and poaching.
The decision not to allow the sales came after concerns about the ability of the MIKE (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) monitoring system to provide sound and reliable information to support CITES decision-making.
MIKE was established in 1997 to measure and record baseline levels and trends of illegal hunting of elephants, to monitor the effects of CITES decisions, and to build capacity in range states.
Yet nine years after its inception, MIKE data is incomplete, unreliable and based on flawed assumptions. A number of large seizures in the past year, which are most likely the proceeds of poaching, are not reflected in the data on elephant populations presented by MIKE to the committee.
Conservation groups are concerned that any relaxation in the ban on ivory will result in an explosion in both demand and supply of ivory, and a flooding of the market of both legal and illegal stocks.
Despite suspending the ivory sale, conservation groups have criticised a controversial decision to approve Japanâs application as an approved stockpile buyer, despite evidence that the âone-offâ stockpile sale to Japan in 1999 resulted in ivory markets spinning out of control in Asia.
Critics questioned the suitability of China and Japan to purchase the stockpiled ivory, after reports by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) on the domestic control system in both countries revealed loopholes that allow illegal ivory to flow into the legal markets. For years both countries have been criticized for their thriving markets in illegal ivory.
Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network (SSN), a global coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations, said âCITES delegates remember all-too-well the carnage of the 1970s and 1980s, when poached elephant carcasses unceremoniously littered the African savannah. Sound science and current data strongly suggest that renewed ivory trade could bring us perilously close to reviving the onslaught.â
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989.
South Africa, a strong lobbyer for the one-off sale, was slated in 2002 for withholding information on poaching in the Kruger Park before the CITES meeting which resulted in the controversial sale being approved.
Green Clippings recently reported on news that least 100 elephants had been slaughtered in the Zakouma National Park in the central African nation of Chad.