Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Despite 20-Year-Old Ivory Ban, Situation for Elephants More Desperate Than Ever

/PRNewswire/ -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) today called upon the United States and the world community to renew its commitment to the global ivory ban, which has been systematically undermined to the point where elephants could soon disappear from the face of the earth.

Established by the U.S. and the other signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 20 years ago today, the ivory trade ban gave elephants the highest possible level of legal protection and effectively banned international trade in ivory. The ban was put in place in response to the alarming slaughter of elephants in Africa during the 1980s, when elephant poaching had slashed the continent's population from more than 1.2 million to about 450,000 in just 10 years.

Elephant poaching and global demand for ivory plummeted while the ban was fully enforced, but the peace was short-lived. Beginning in 1997, pro-ivory trade forces pushed through decision after decision that methodically undermined the ivory ban, culminating in massive, "legal" ivory stockpile sales to China and Japan as recently as 2008. The aftermath of these sales, according to Kenyan and other African wildlife authorities, has been an undeniable surge in poaching and elephant slaughter in countless African elephant range states.

Scientists now believe that more than 100 elephants die every day to fuel the ivory trade, and that number is increasing. At the rate they're being slaughtered, African elephants could become extinct across most of their range by 2024, less than 15 years from now.

"The lesson is crystal clear," said Jeff Flocken, IFAW Washington, D.C. Office Director. "Any legal ivory trade leads to illegal slaughter because the legal market gives poachers an easy way to sell their illegal stocks."

Ironically, the 20-year anniversary of the global ivory ban comes just a day after the 1-year anniversary of the ivory ban on eBay, Inc., the world's leading Internet marketplace. The company made the historic decision to ban sales of ivory from elephants and all other animals on Oct. 19, 2008, and ivory has effectively disappeared from the companies' web marketplaces.

"The courageous action that eBay took one year ago proves that the only solution is to reinstate a total and permanent ban on ivory sales," said Flocken. "The U.S. was a leader on this issue back in the 1980's when the global ban was put in place, and we need that leadership again if we are to save this iconic species."

"Many Americans don't realize that the U.S. is still one of the world's largest consumers of ivory, so it's on our shoulders to help save this species while we still can," Flocken said.

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