Values, culture and the ivory trade ban

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Launch of a rapid response anti-poaching force in Gabon
November 8, 2016
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Values, culture and the ivory trade ban

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Is the Ivory trade ban enough to save Africa’s elephants?

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Science for Nature and People (SNAP) and Stop Ivory, recently released key findings from a collection of studies entitled “Is the Ban Enough to Save Africa’s Elephants?”.

The studies, which contain a wealth of in-depth research, aims to provide policy support to governments and conservationists where wildlife is facing severe habitat loss, unplanned infrastructure and rapid population growth.

Highlighting rampant elephant poaching, that has escalated across Africa since 2007, the report takes a deep dive into an issue that is robbing the continent of its elephant populations: the ivory trade.

The SAIIA’s research shows that, to secure a future for Africa’s elephants, the ban on the international trade of ivory must continue, and all domestic markets must close.
In the last year alone, the world’s two largest ivory markets – US and China – made ground-breaking commitments to shut their markets, bringing welcome relief to a situation that had hit rock bottom in many African countries.

The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently stated in their status of Africa’s Elephants report that Africa in has, in the last decade, lost at least 20% of its elephant population – with some countries, like Tanzania, which saw a dramatic decline of up to 60%, bearing the brunt.

The research, published as the discussions at the CITES COP17 get underway in Johannesburg, examines the diverse challenges facing the conservation community, and contains a series of thought pieces which address the future of the African elephant based on four scenarios. These are:

  • What are the implication of an impending domestic ban on the ivory trade in China?
  • What are key elephant range states like South Africa doing about its poaching problem?
  • How can “sustainable use” policies be adapted? How can wilderness landscape preservation be pursued in the face of competing land-use priorities?
  • How best should natural resource management be implemented with local communities taking the lead and can conservation be mainstreamed into the broader development agenda if it is to succeed?

The future of Africa’s elephant hangs in a balance. This research provides us with insights from every possible angle as to why the global ivory trade must be shut down. CITES delegations from all over the world are asked to make a controversial choice – but it needs to be made, and implemented quickly, for this iconic species to survive and thrive.

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