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Illegal ivory trade driven by
unregulated domestic markets
Major sources and markets
identified by new monitoring system
4 October 2002 - Despite a virtually continuous ban on international
trade in ivory since 1989, a series of analytical reports from the
Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) has revealed that a significant
illegal trade in ivory continues.
This illegal trade is driven mainly by large, unregulated domestic
markets in a number of Asian and African countries. The reports
also reveal that the increasing economic power of consumers in China
is making that country the major force in driving ivory demand worldwide.
The four most important countries implicated as being frequent sources
or destinations for large volumes of illegal ivory - largely as
a result of poor law enforcement - are China, Nigeria, the Democratic
Republic of Congo and Thailand. Other key players are Cameroon,
Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Of secondary importance are Angola, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt,
India, Republic of Korea, Philippines, and Sudan. Most of these
countries either have substantial domestic ivory markets that remain
largely unregulated or they play important roles as illicit exporters
Established in 1997 by the Parties to the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ETIS
is a comprehensive international monitoring system for tracking
illegal trade in elephant products.
Developed and managed by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring
network, in association with the CITES Secretariat, the system uses
global records of ivory and other elephant product seizures as a
basis for understanding illegal trade dynamics, including trends.
ETIS now contains over 7,800 records of elephant product seizures
that have taken place throughout the world since 1989, implicating
150 countries in the illicit trade in ivory.
While ETIS has been operational for several years, the first analytical
results from the monitoring system will be presented at the twelfth
meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES taking place from
3 - 15 November in Santiago, Chile. The reports, based upon a comprehensive
statistical analysis of the ETIS data, show trends and changes in
trends of ivory seizures over time, identify those countries that
play leading roles in the illicit ivory trade, and assess the nature
of their involvement.
"The statistical analysis indicates that illegal trade in
ivory is directly correlated to the presence of large-scale, unregulated
domestic ivory markets," said Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC
East/Southern Africa and one of the authors of the reports.
"Located in both Africa and Asia, these markets have become
increasingly more active since 1996 and account for the greatest
volume of ivory being seized throughout the world. If we want to
stop elephant poaching, we must address these markets," he
In terms of global ivory trade trends, the ETIS reports indicate
that ivory seizure volumes progressively declined from 1989 to 1994,
remained stable at 1994 levels through to 1998, but have been on
the increase ever since.
"Our analysis shows that, since 1998, demand for ivory in
China has dramatically increased. In fact, it is the single most
important factor influencing the increasing trend," said Milliken.
Between 1989 and 1997, all elephant populations were listed in
Appendix I of CITES, which imposed a global ban on international
commercial trade in elephant products. In September 1997, the large
and increasing elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe
were transferred to Appendix II, allowing a one-off ivory sale to
Japan two years later. In 2000, the South African elephant population
was also transferred to Appendix II, but there was no provision
for trade in ivory. ETIS was established to monitor whether or not
the limited resumption in ivory trade would have negative impacts
on elephant populations.
"We're concerned that illegal trade in ivory is increasing,"
said Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary General of CITES. "At the
same time, it is some consolation to note that this increase does
not appear to be related to decisions taken under CITES, but rather
potent and new economic forces in countries that traditionally value
Recent TRAFFIC studies in China, Japan, Myanmar and Vietnam show
that elephant products are openly traded. These markets are generally
poorly regulated and, to a large extent, rely upon illegal sources
of ivory for the production of curios. In China, the TRAFFIC study
also found that the government may be starting to take encouragingly
strong actions to stamp out the illicit ivory trade, although regulation
of domestic markets remained weak.
Wijnstekers urged governments to address the problem of unregulated
domestic ivory markets. "By giving us a deeper understanding
of how the illegal ivory trade works, the ETIS monitoring system
has also flagged the most important action we can take to protect
the African elephant - strict regulation and enforcement of the
domestic ivory trade by all countries," he said.
Since its inception, ETIS has received funding from the UK Department
of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF and the CITES Secretariat.
Copies of the report is available on the World Wide Web at www.cites.org/common/cop/12/docs/eng/E12-34-1.pdf
Copies of the TRAFFIC reports on trade in elephants and elephant
products in Viet Nam, China, Taiwan, Myanmar and Japan are available
from TRAFFIC's Online Report Series at http://www.traffic.org/publications/reportseries.html
For further information, please contact:
Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa, Friday
tel. +27 11 486 1102, Monday 7 October onwards +263 4 252533.
Maija Sirola, Communications Coordinator at TRAFFIC International,
Cambridge tel. +44 (0)1223 277427, email: email@example.com.
Jim Armstrong, Deputy Secretary General, CITES Secretariat, Geneva,
Switzerland tel. +41 22 9178127, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juan Carlos Vasquez, CITES Media Officer, CITES Secretariat, Geneva,
Switzerland tel. +41 22 9178156, email: email@example.com
Michael Williams, Press Officer, United Nations Environment Programme,
Geneva, Switzerland tel. +41 79 4091528, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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