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WWF Reaction to CITES Decisions on Ivory Trade

Bangkok - Members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species completed discussions on elephants and ivory trade Monday, rejecting proposals to reopen commercial ivory trade and adopting an action plan to crack down on unregulated domestic ivory markets across Africa.

"Enactment of this action plan is a conservation victory," said Ginette Hemley, vice president for species conservation at World Wildlife Fund. "For the first time, the plan endorsed today commits every African country with an internal ivory market to either strictly control the trade or shut it down completely."

Africa's unregulated domestic ivory markets continue to be the biggest driver of poaching for illegal trade, according to a report issued at the meeting by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN-The World Conservation Union.

Proposals by Namibia to establish annual sales of up to 2,000 kilograms of ivory and to create a commercial trade in traditional ivory carvings known as "ekipas" were both defeated.

"The international community rightly rejected Namibia's proposal to resume commercial trade, which was premature. Namibia's elephant conservation programs are exemplary and highlight the community-based conservation programs that provide real benefits to local people," Hemley said. "But the global ivory trade should not resume until there is a system in place to track the impact of illegal trade on elephant populations."

The illegal ivory trade fuels the killing of at least 4,000 elephants annually across Africa, TRAFFIC found.

CITES parties also voted Monday to allow trade in elephant leather and hair by Namibia and South Africa. There is no evidence that elephants are poached for their leather or hair, so this trade is not expected to be a conservation threat.

WWF has field projects throughout Africa that support community-based conservation, protect critical habitat, mitigate human-elephant conflict, stop poaching and reduce illegal trade in ivory.