EU urged to tighten rules on ivory trade

Conservation groups have urged the European Union (EU) to follow the examples of China and the United States and crack down on global ivory trade by prohibiting all exports and closing the EU internal market. The call comes just barely two months after Kenya burned 105 tonnes of ivory to discourage the trade. However, Kenya’s burned ivory represents just 5 per cent of what is currently held in government stockpiles across Africa.

“The EU must walk the talk and abolish ivory trade once and for all, both within and from the EU.  Signing declarations calling on the international community to get serious about combatting ivory trade is not enough.  EU ministers must demonstrate leadership to secure the survival of elephants in Africa and Asia,” said Daniela Freyer of conservation organization Pro Wildlife.

The European Union Environment Council will consider restricting trade in elephant ivory for export and in the EU domestic market. Meanwhile, the United States has implemented a near ban on ivory trade, which will come into effect in July.

“The global shift against the ivory trade is evident, and the EU’s failure to put its own house in order will place it in an increasingly isolated position.  Major ivory markets are closing down while the EU is lagging behind; they should join China and the US in leading this convergence of views,” added Sally Case, CEO of David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

The EU is by far the biggest exporter of alleged pre-Convention ivory worldwide.  A recent EU Commission report shows that legal exports of pre-Convention ivory from the EU have increased since 2008, the year that CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permitted ivory stockpile sales to China and Japan from southern Africa.

The AEC includes the vast majority of African elephant range States (countries where African elephants occur in the wild). Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, however, representing a small minority of range States, have submitted proposals to CITES to re-open international trade in ivory.

“African countries in the AEC are blazing a trail to shut down the global ivory market.  We are calling on the EU to support their initiative and demonstrate its commitment to the world by shutting down its own market before CITES meets in September,” said Vera Weber, President of the Swiss-based Fondation Franz Weber, a partner organization of the AEC.

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