Ivory trade makes US congressional agenda


Washington, D.C. : The fate of the world’s elephants was the focus of a key US congressional hearing today, highlighting the international efforts to protect elephants from a growing illegal trade in their ivory and calls to allow for its legal trade.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) elephant expert, and former Director of Kenya Wildlife Service, Michael Wamithi, spoke at thehearing on the devastating impacts of the ivory trade on the world’s remaining elephants.

“Given the severity of the current state of the trade in elephant ivory, signaled by escalating worldwide ivory seizures, the ivory trade is a prime global issue that deserves center-stage,” Wamithi said. “An estimated 20,000 elephants are being killed annually for their ivory. It is encouraging that the U.S. is bringing this issue into discussion – but we need urgent action if we are going to save these elephants.”

The 14th meeting of parties to the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) is scheduled to take place in June in The Hague, Netherlands. Today’s testimonies are expected to inform the U.S. government position on a key elephant conservation proposal.

Kenya and Mali have submitted a joint proposal to the CITES Secretariat for a 20-year moratorium on trade in raw or worked ivory, excluding non-commercial hunting trophies and (in the case of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) ivory exported pursuant to a one-off sale of up to 66 tons (60 tonnes) agreed at the 2002 meeting of CITES.

Cindy Milburn, IFAW’s Acting U.S. Country Director, sees this moratorium as a chance for depleted elephant populations to recover. “The ivory trade is cruel and senseless, and it must be stopped. Given the rampant illegal trade in elephant ivory, we could continue to see a dramatic decrease in elephant populations across both Africa and Asia. We must act now.”

Between August 2005 and August 2006, over 25.5 tons (23 tonnes) of illegal ivory has been seized around the world, the highest ever annual seizure rate since the 1989 CITES ban went into effect.

IFAW works around the globe to protect animals and habitats, promoting practical solutions for animals and people.

IFAW and Wildlife Trust of India formed a partnership in 2000 to strengthen the cause of wildlife conservation and animal welfare in India. The two organizations share concerns for a number of endangered animals.