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Today, 22 March 2010, CITES rejected a proposal from Tanzania calling for an easing of the international ban on ivory sales to permit one off sales of some 90 tons of ivory!  Following this rejection, Zambia, which itself had sought permission for the one off sale of some 20 tons of ivory, withdrew its proposal. 
In a last ditch effort to grab votes, Tanzania split its proposal in two (1) to “downlist” from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow for trade in elephant trophies, live animals, non-commercial elephant products; and (2) to downlist with a sale of the ivory stockpile. Tanzania failed to achieve the two thirds majority needed to downlist its elephants by a vote of 57 in favour, 45 opposed, and 32 abstentions. The downlisting with ivory trade proposal failed to receive even a simple majority: 59 in favour, 60 opposed, and 13 abstentions. 
The rejection of these proposals is a rare victory for conservationists at this year's CITES meetings in Doha, where proposals to ban the international trade in endangered blue fin tuna and to protect polar bears have been soundly defeated.


We would like to take the opportunity to thank all those people who supported our petition to CITES calling for the rejection of both proposals, along with the various other similar petitions that have circulated in the last few weeks.  By speaking with one voice we can create a loud enough voice to be heard and on this occasion listen to as well.  This is a stay of execution for the elephants and something we should celebrate - while recognising that elephant poaching still remains at high levels due to the CITES backed ivory sales of 2 years ago, so the species is far from safe.

In 1989 CITES imposed a complete ban on ivory sales, following the widespread slaughter of elephants during the previous ten years, when in excess of 700,000 elephants were murdered for their tusks – over half the population at the time.  Illegal ivory trafficking continued, however elephant deaths were far fewer and in many areas population number began to increase a little – the elephants had been given a stay of execution.


Just ten years on and CITES approved a so-called one off sale of ivory, which raised some $5m for apparent conservation projects.   Just 3 years after that, in 2002, CITES agreed in principle to another of these so called one off sales and in 2007 it approved that decision for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell their stockpiled ivory to China and Japan.  The four African Nations argued they could better protect their elephants by raising funds for their conservation through the sale of their body parts - their ivory.  CITES justified its decision to allow the sales, stating that they would help satisfy the growing demand for ivory in China, Japan and the Middle East.


The decision opened the floodgates for illegal ivory trading.   With legalised sales providing a smokescreen for illegal ivory and in doing so, stimulating ivory poaching and an increase of the market for ivory products.  As recently as 27 February, customs officials in Thailand seized 239 tusks, weighing almost 2 tonnes, reportedly the countries biggest ever seizure.  While in September 2009 the Kenya Wildlife Service made its biggest seizure in recent times, amounting to over a tonne of ivory.  The value of ivory has risen seven fold since the legalised sales of 2008, with a poacher, usually living on less than a dollar a day now able to command a price of over $50 a kilo, while the end seller is getting closer to $1,500 a kilo.


‘Now, more than ever, when the elephants are so very vulnerable, their social family fabric torn to tatters, should the world SAY NO TO IVORY, no matter in what form. Each and every one of us can, and should, at least do that. Every piece of ivory is a haunting memory of a once proud and majestic animal, that should have lived three score years and ten; who has loved and been loved, and was once a member of a close-knit family akin to our own; but who has suffered and died in unspeakable agony to yield a tooth for a trinket. Something so symbolic of death and suffering can never be beautiful,’



Says Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick.


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