It all began after, I believe, a series of reports on seizures of ivory began to be seen on an escalating basis in what has for a long time been known as African transit countries for illegal ivory including the main ones; Kenya and Tanzania. New points of exit surfaced as well. Recipient countries such as Vietnam, China, and Thailand among others also began to see an upsurge in frequency and amounts of ivory being confiscated. Mind you, these were the successful seizures. No one can tell yet how much slipped thru official and dubious routes. Numbers of dead elephants, albeit tusk-less, correspondently increased in shocking numbers, although we may never know how many went unreported and unseen.
With this increasing exposure around the globe, increasing number of high profile NGOs and persona took an interest and thus began a movement calling for attention. Several meetings were organized to raise the level of influence. Prime of these were the Clinton Global Initiative held in Washington DC, the IUCN African Elephant Summit in Botswana and United Kingdom Wildlife Crime Summit in London. These were held in rapid succession between September, 2013 and February, 2014. All these had the participation of the highest level of Government representation particularly from Africa – the source of the item, ivory. At the end of each, there were sober faced declarations. All measures agreed to, after obvious recognition to the problems, were aimed at taking urgent measures to address the poaching on the ground, to reviewing legislation to eliminating trade in illegal ivory. Below is a short excerpt of the introduction to the declarations from each of the above Summits:
Clinton Initiative: September, 2013
Call is made for African range state-initiated campaign urging range, transit and consumer countries to declare or re-state national moratoria on all commercial imports, exports and domestic sales and purchases of tusks and ivory products until wild elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching for trade
Government of Botswana and IUCN African Elephant Summit: December, 2013
Having NOTED that elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade are a major concern across Africa and beyond, with serious security, economic, political and ecological ramifications as these crimes increase in frequency and severity and expand into previously secure elephant populations
United Kingdom Elephant Protection Initiative: February, 2014
The Elephant Crisis: the illegal killing of elephant and trade in their ivory is out of control across much of Africa. It threatens the survival not only of small exposed elephant populations, but also those which have previously been thought secure thereby harming economic development of our countries and undermining the ecological integrity of our ecosystems. The poaching and illegal trade is driven by international criminal networks and cartels, which fuels corruption, undermines the rule of law and security, and, evidence suggest provides funding to those associated with organized crime and terrorist activities.
A number of more specific actions were signed off by the parties committed to the list. Notably, South Africa did not participate in the two subsequent Summits after the Clinton Initiative citing possible conflict to their national strategies on wildlife utilization and conservation. And now we wait for the action by all the signatories, i.e. Governments. Disappointingly, no one accepted any binding language that would also put in place time based results. Meanwhile, poaching is still a serious concern in most countries and remains by far the most pertinent threat to the species.
Author: Ali Kaka