Elephants under threat as trade in illegal ivory triples over past decade, UN report says
The future of African elephants remains uncertain as illegal ivory trade continues to grow, according to a United Nations report released today, which calls for enhanced law enforcement to protect the majestic creatures and their environment.
The report, “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis”, found that elephant poaching doubled and illegal ivory trade tripled in the last decade, endangering already fragile populations in Central Africa, as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.
“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.
The report warns that criminal networks are increasingly involved and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia, where demand is high, particularly in countries with a growing economy such as China.
Data gathered by the programme known as MIKE, or Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants, led by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), shows that an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011.
Data for 2012 shows the situation did not improve, and actual figures for last year may be much higher.
“CITES must re-engage on illegal wildlife crime with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment, creativity, cooperation and energy involving range States and transit countries to consuming nations of products such as ivory,” Mr. Steiner said.
Elephants’ survival is also threatened by the increasing loss of habitat in about 29 per cent of their range as a result of rapid human population growth and large-scale land conversion for agriculture. Currently, some models suggest this figure may increase to 63 per cent by 2050, which represents a major additional threat to the survival of the elephant in the long term.
“This report provides clear evidence that adequate human and financial resources, the sharing of know-how, raising public awareness in consumer countries, and strong law enforcement must all be in place if we are to curb the disturbing rise in poaching and illegal trade,” said the Secretary-General of CITES, John Scanlon.
The report recommends improving law enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain, and increasing collaboration among transit and consumer countries through international organizations such as CITES, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol and the World Bank. It also highlights the need to combat corruption and reduce demand for ivory.
The report was jointly produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) and released at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES convention in Bangkok, Thailand.