Bangkok - World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC applaud African countries who today announced a continent-wide action plan to crack down on their domestic ivory markets, calling it a major victory for elephant conservation.
The plan, endorsed by every African country that has elephants, will be formally presented to the 166 members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) next Monday and is expected to be adopted. For the first time, the plan commits every African country with a domestic ivory market to either strictly control the trade or shut it down altogether. Until now, Africa's domestic ivory markets have remained unaddressed by the ban on international ivory sales imposed by CITES in 1989.
"Unregulated domestic markets across Africa are fueling a significant portion of the poaching we're seeing in central Africa today," said Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. "These markets consume up to 12,000 elephants annually, so it's time we have an action plan that closes a huge loophole in the global effort to save elephants."
The action plan was recommended for approval by the meeting of the African Elephant Range States Dialogue that took place before the main CITES conference began. The plan was prompted by the elephant ivory trade analysis done by TRAFFIC that names the countries with the worst illegal markets, including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
"This is a courageous step by African countries to police themselves with a plan that has real teeth," said Ginette Hemley, vice president for species conservation at WWF. "Under this plan, African countries will have to draft legislation to improve law enforcement and border controls and create public awareness campaigns aimed at consumers."
WWF and TRAFFIC will work with the African countries as they implement the action plan. The countries must report on their progress to the CITES Secretariat by March 31, 2005.
A full copy of the action plan endorsed by the African Elephant Range States Dialogue is available at http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/13/docs/E13-29-1A.pdf