Illegal ivory seizures hit record high last year, according to report

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, elephant poaching has seen a decline for the fifth year in a row, but ivory seizures are nearly ‘three times greater’ than in 2007

(Photo: TakePart)
(Photo: TakePart)

Elephant poaching in Africa has seen a decline, for the fifth consecutive year in 2016, but seizures of illegal ivory have hit record highs, said the CITES monitor on Tuesday.

In its latest report, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, called it a “conflicting phenomena”, with around 40 tonnes of trafficked ivory having been recovered in 2016 alone. the most seized since 1989.

Though poaching killed 111,000 African elephants over the last decade, levels seem to be decreasing, in most places.

The same can not be said for illegal ivory trade, however.

“The overall weight of seized ivory in illegal trade is now nearly three times greater than what was observed in 2007”, said CITES in a statement.

According to the organisation’s Secretary General John Scanlon, these numbers could be a result of increasing vigilance among border guards and “scaled up enforcement”.

He went on to speculate that the prospect of tougher enforcement and the widening trend of countries moving to ban ivory may have had a ripple effect across the black market.

"International syndicates behind this poaching and smuggling may be involved in a panic sell-off as they realise that speculating on extinction was a bad bet, with the an ever-increasing risk of getting caught," Scanlon was quoted as saying.

Studies from civil society groups have reported a 50% drop in ivory prices, in recent years. There has also been an increase in the amount of ivory being carved into pendants and bangles in Africa, rather than the ivory just being exported as tusks into Asia, which are easier to intercept.

With regards to poaching, Scanlon said that there was particularly good news in Eastern Africa, which was badly hit by poaching in the last decade.

"There has been a steady decline in poaching levels since its peak in 2011, and the analysis from 2016 concludes that overall poaching trends have now dropped to pre-2008 levels," he said.

While the outlook for elephants looks good in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, in central Africa there have been "dramatic losses of elephant populations" over the last decade, with "levels of illegal killing remaining very high".

KWS rangers examine the carcass of an elephant killed at Logorate near Mugie ranch in Samburu County (Photo: Nation Media Group)
KWS rangers examine the carcass of an elephant killed at Logorate near Mugie ranch in Samburu County (Photo: Nation Media Group)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) previously found that Africa’s elephant numbers fell by 111,000 between 2006 and 2015.

Scanlon said that it was now imperative for conservationists to “drive home the advantage we have while the political momentum is with us”.

CITES monitors the international anti-trafficking agreement, amongst countries that came into force in 1975, and has now been joined by over 180 state parties.

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