The DSWT are encouraged by the gathering of world leaders at the The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London yesterday. For such an event to even take place is evidence that governments are finally recognising the seriousness of illegal wildlife crime. We commend the British government for their efforts in bringing together these leaders and congratulate the attendees on agreeing to a number of actions in a declaration, which if followed through, could help to curtail the illegal wildlife trade.
We do believe that while the rhetoric from the meeting is positive and there are a number of commendable deliverables in the declaration, it has failed to go far enough - an opportunity has been missed. The Conference marked an historic opportunity for decisive action and commitments in the face of an illegal trade valued at up to $19billion annually, which is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of endangered species every year, as well as the lives of wildlife rangers, killed in the line of duty. In respect of elephants, the declaration makes no mention of legal domestic ivory markets; those markets that provide a smokescreen for the prevalent illegal ivory trade. Again, there has been too much focus on the word ‘illegal’; both legal and illegal ivory trades affect elephant populations, as every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant and so long as there is a legal trade in ivory, elephants will be killed for their tusks. That is a fact, for the natural mortality of elephants comes nowhere near meeting the present demand for ivory.
International and domestic ivory markets must be banned. The United States has this week come some way in highlighting this need and we are disappointed that those meeting yesterday did not have the strength to follow that lead and take it further. China is well documented as having the largest domestic ivory trade and with that, its Government has the ability to be a saviour of elephants. If China banned ivory sales, evidence from WildAid indicates that the public would support such a ban, not only would China’s government have the support of their own citizens, it would equally have the support of global citizens, who would celebrate any decision to ban China’s ivory market.
We implore the leaders that met yesterday to take their self-proclaimed political will to protecting our planet’s endangered wildlife and use it to assert to China the opportunity they have to significantly stem the slaughter of elephants.
There is rightly a great deal of talk about education and demand reduction initiatives in China, for where there is demand for ivory, there will always be someone willing to supply. The DSWT is supportive of these efforts and we recognise their critical importance, noting an important fact, even with all the money and advertising in the world, it takes time to change consumer behaviour. While that change is taking place, elephants are being slaughtered. We have to heighten anti-poaching efforts on the ground, to save the elephants that are alive today, so that when demand for ivory has been reduced and better yet eliminated, these magnificent species still roam the earth.