African Nations Join Forces to
Form Anti-Ivory Trade Coalition
BAMAKO, Mali, Feb. 8
Delegates and experts of wildlife conservation agencies in Africa
from 17 countries came together
and formally created a united front to save their countries most
valued flagship species, the African elephant.
Delegates gathered in the West African country of Mali's capital
for a two-day meeting to discuss how they will pave the way
forward for elephants following decisions at the 14th Conference
of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade of
Endangered Species) to allow huge ivory stock sales, which will
take place before commencement of a nine-year trade suspension.
There is a great concern by range states that huge tons of ivory
being released into the markets will only stimulate demand and
prompt poachers to kill more elephants.
The Director of National Parks & Biosphere Reserves in Mali,
Bourama Niagate, acknowledged that protecting this keystone
species is vital for the ecosystem as well as the tourism sector.
Mali has only 300 elephants remaining, while just before the
initial international ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989
there were about 800. "We must recognize that this upcoming
nine-year resting period does not mean peace for the elephants.
Ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere. Success
in elephant conservation will depend first on the elimination of
"In addition, our countries will need to work together to
formulate as well as enforce conservation and management policies
that are non-consumptive if we would wish for future generations
to enjoy our most treasured wildlife heritage, African elephants,"
Patrick Omondi, Kenya Wildlife Service Head of Species, agrees
that there is much hard work ahead for the coalition and hopes
that more elephant range states will engage themselves. "I would
like to call upon many other elephant range states to join and
support the purpose and goals of the coalition, including the
development of the Elephant Plan."
The formation of the coalition comes at a fitting time as ivory
smuggling has recently been all over the news. Less than two weeks
ago, Namibian officials seized 13 elephant tusks, totaling nearly
200 kg of ivory, and representing seven dead elephants. In the
same period, Kenyan officials seized some 80 kg of raw and worked
ivory at the international airport in Nairobi. Meanwhile, further
south in Zimbabwe, police arrested 11 suspected poachers, who are
believed to have killed 15 elephants within two weeks in Hwange
National Park. And, in Cameroon, CRTV (Cameroon Radio Television)
reported that a poaching network has been disbanded in the south,
with a confiscation of 20 tusks. All aforementioned incidences
took place in just two weeks.
"This is a momentous occasion in the world of elephant
conservation," remarks Michael Wamithi, Programme Manager for
IFAW's global elephant campaign. "Numerous African countries have
come together and essentially proclaimed that they will not stand
for their wildlife to be decimated any
"Rampant trade in Asia is much to blame for the continued violence,"
Wamithi states unwaveringly. "It is clearly an unfair equation,
with the wealth of China and Japan in contrast to financially
challenged African nations. Range states undoubtedly lack both
human and financial resources to protect elephants against
consumer demand, and it our duty to step in and mitigate such
inequities. The first step is to reject China as a trading partner."
In both 2005 and 2006, IFAW conducted investigations into China's
ivory trade regulations. Such reports concluded that domestic
trade control mechanisms in China are far from adequate and it is
impossible to ensure that continued trade in ivory will not
negatively impact African and Asian elephant populations.