ivory-tradeWorld government officials met at a recent conservation conference in Hawaii to discuss the ending of the international ivory trade. The officials conducted quite a fierce debate at the Conservation of Nature World Congress, a 10-meeting of 9,000 people, in Honolulu, HI, earlier this month. It took the entire 10 days and, after heavy opposition from both Japan and Namibia, the commission finally voted to close all domestic ivory markets.

In response to the ruling, Natural Resource Defense Council deputy chief program officer Andew Wetzler said, “Today’s vote by IUCN members is the first time that a major international body has called on every country in the world to close its legal markets for elephant ivory.”

Indeed, he adds, this is a “truly landmark moment,” and a major victory. He also makes sure to note that the vote will now have to go before the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which takes place next month in Johannesburg.

At the start of the Congress, World Conservation Congress lead author Andrea Turkalo explains that it would take nearly a century for Africa’s forest elephants to recover its population from the intense amount of poaching they have fallen prey to over nearly the last 15 years. In addition, she pointed out that The Great Elephant Census—a group funded by Microsoft founder

Paul Allen and operated by scientists and conservationists (including Dr. Paul Elkan, Falk Grossman, and other staff from the WCS)—has documented savanna elephant populations have decline at the alarming rate of 27,000 per year. That’s 8 percent; with a total of 144,000 lost over the last decade. And populations throughout Africa are also at an increased risk for extinction.

In response to the vote, WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper—who is also a member of the US Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking—comments: “The shutting down of domestic ivory markets will send a clear signal to traffickers and organized criminal syndicates that ivory is worthless and will no longer support their criminal activities causing security problems in local communities and wiping out wildlife.”

He adds that the critical closing of domestic markets will assist in the prevention of the sale of ivory “under the cover of a legal trade,” and that this will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to track illegal sales and, more importantly to stop the syndicates undertaking this brutal practice from profiting through it.
Finally, he reminds that the WCS will remain vigilant in this effort to stop the killing, trafficking, and—hopefully–the demand for elephant ivory forever.