Conserving Africa's remaining elephants and ending the threat of ivory trade: the "Big Five" proposals for CITES

Phyllis C Lee, Keith W Lindsay, Kathleen S Gobush, Rosalind Reeve, Robert Hepworth, David Lusseau

Abstract


Elephant populations across Africa have been hit hard in recent years by illegal killing for the ivory trade; countries in West, Central and East Africa have seen high levels of poaching since at least the mid-2000s, with most countries in Southern Africa now also experiencing the impact of wildlife crime. With a small minority of range States pressing for trade in elephants and ivory, and with domestic sales and stockpiles hinting of a possibility of a future international trade, the signal is, at best, confusing to would-be consumers and, at worst, potentially encouraging to criminal networks.
A suite of five complementary proposals has been submitted by at least 11 African range States from the 27-member African Elephant Coalition and additional co-sponsors to the CITES Conference of Parties (CoP17) to be held in Johannesburg during 24 September - 5 October 2016, in order to protect Africa’s dwindling and threatened population of elephants. Existing CITES controls on elephant products in international trade are partial and conditional. The present proposals should be seen as a carefully formulated and measured package for decisive change in the agenda for elephants, shifting from the current mixed message to a unified one aimed at streamlining anti-poaching and anti-trafficking enforcement, lowering market demand for ivory and securing an enduring CITES framework for the species' future.
The proposals are: 1. Listing all elephant populations in Appendix I; 2. Closure of domestic ivory markets; 3. Destruction and management of ivory stockpiles; 4. Ending the Decision-Making Mechanism for a trade in Ivory (DMM); and 5. Prohibiting the export of live elephants.
This paper provides an evidence-based justification and summary of these proposals.

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