NEWS: Trump/Elephants

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NEWS: US to Oppose Proposal by African Nations to Sell Ivory Stockpiles 

Elephants in Africa are in crisis because of poaching, climate change and a host of other issues.

But I just learned that they’re getting a bit of a reprieve from the Trump administration.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just confirmed to me that the United States is officially opposing a proposal that would allow four nations in southern Africa—Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe—to sell their ivory stockpiles. These stockpiles mainly come from the ivory of dead elephants and those seized from traffickers. 

The proposal to sell ivory stockpiles was presented by three of the nations, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, at the CITES meeting in Geneva. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an agreement among 183 countries on the regulation of wildlife trade and any wildlife products, including ivory sales. 

The reason this opposition is such a victory for elephants is that the last time Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allowed to sell their ivory stockpiles, in 2008, it led to a catastrophic rise in illegal poaching. At the time, the sale, which was made to Japan and China, was intended to flood the market and reduce prices, but it had the opposite impact; after the sale, elephant poaching increased by 66 percent and has only recently started to slow. In the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered for their ivory. 

The countries seeking to get permission from CITES to sell their ivory stockpiles have been frustrated that they can’t decide what to do with the ivory from their elephants. They’ve implied directly, and indirectly, that the restrictions imposed on them by countries that don’t have elephants smack of neo-colonialism. 

Zimbabwe, which is facing a horrific economic crisis (inflation soared to 175 percent in June), is among the most strident voices on the subject of selling ivory stockpiles.

“Our ivory stockpile is worth over $300 million, which we can’t sell because countries without elephants are telling those with them what to do with their animals,” Nick Mangwana, a Zimbabwe government official, tweeted in May

Here’s a partial statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its decision to oppose a limited sale of ivory from the four nations in southern Africa: 

“Given the continuous high levels of elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, the United States believes it is premature to agree to a resumption of trade in ivory at this time. The United States believes that re-opening international trade in ivory, at this time, will further endanger elephant populations across Africa.

It is extremely difficult to differentiate legally acquired ivory from ivory derived from elephant poaching. USFWS criminal investigations and anti-smuggling efforts have clearly shown that the legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade to launder illegally obtained ivory. Therefore, allowing legal ivory to enter the marketplace could mask trade in illegal ivory and contribute to increased elephant poaching, undermining the efforts to date that may have resulted in the slight reduction in poaching observed in some range countries or areas.”