On Tuesday, we wrote about Tanzania’s submission of a proposal to CITES to make changes to the classification of its elephant population, allowing for, among other things, a one-off sale of 101,005 kg of government-held ivory. According to an article in The Guardian this week, prominent conservation organizations have wasted no time in decrying that move as a ‘ludicrous’ idea, calling on CITES member countries to veto the proposal.
Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, raised concerns cited by many conservationists that such sales have historically bolstered the illegal ivory market. She stated: “The very system CITES uses to permit so-called one-off auctions is profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory. It’s ludicrous for Tanzania to even consider applying for permission to cash in on its stockpile – dumping more than 100 tons of ivory onto the market will only serve to further confuse consumers as to the legal status of ivory, stimulating fresh demand, spurring the black market and leading to more poaching.”
Heather Sohl, Senior Species Policy Officer at WWF-UK summarized her organization’s stance on the issue by saying: “In principle, we are not in favor of any further international ivory trade unless and until the data make it clear beyond doubt that such trade will not encourage poaching.”
Destruction of such government-held stockpiles is seen as a better alternative, as it sends a strong signal that poaching will not be tolerated. Gabon received widespread praise when it burned 4,825 kg of ivory this summer.