Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) has been actively fighting to preserve wildlife and nature in Africa for the past 40 years. FFW has been working worldwide to protect animals as individuals through the recognition of their rights and the abolition of inhumane practices.
While the results for the Great Elephant Census from August 2016 revealed that in just seven years there has been a 30 percent decline of Africa’s elephant populations due to the enormous global demand for ivory, there are still some countries resisting a ban on international and domestic ivory trade.
In the 18 countries surveyed, final results show that 144,000 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks between 2007 and 2014, leaving an elephant population of only 352,271. This is a current rate of decline of 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. Eighty-four percent of the population surveyed was sighted in legally protected areas while sixteen percent were in unprotected areas. However, high numbers of elephant carcasses were discovered in many protected areas, indicating that elephants are struggling both inside and outside parks.
Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) will be at the forefront in campaigning for a total ban on ivory at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In the last 33 years 61 percent of Africa’s elephants have been lost as a result of the ivory trade. Recent data shows that there is an upward trend. From 2010 to 2012, at least 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory. According to Vera Weber, President and CEO of Fondation Franz Weber, whose organisation has been campaigning for the protection of African elephants since 1989, the current system is clearly not working, and has proved impractical.
African elephants are divided under CITES by a split-listing between Appendix I and Appendix II. It means that those African countries with the Appendix II listing – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – are allowed commercial international trade subject to obtaining permission from CITES, while Appendix I for the rest of the continent prohibits all commercial trade in ivory internationally.
«To begin with,» Weber argues that «the split-listing is problematic under CITES, and is normally invoked only in unusual circumstances. If some range States are actively trading in species that are threatened in other range States, this trade will increase demand for ivory, and thus the threat of illegal killing in all range States. Furthermore, African elephants are not constrained within State borders, or indeed are there such things as ‘national populations’,» she says. «Many elephants are shared with more than one country, which calls for a more unified approach to their regulation under CITES.»
Vera Weber fears that the prospect of future trade exists with an Appendix II listing, consumers will conclude that ivory still has value and criminals are likely to kill elephants and maintain the trade and their own stockpiles for future sales.
She says that «a total ban on international and domestic trade in ivory is the best, and only, way to protect elephants from extinction.»
FFW has been working closely with the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), a group of 29 African nations including 70 percent of range states, who recognize the great threat posed by the ivory trade, both legal and illegal. Consequently, they have submitted five complementary proposals to be presented at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Taken together, the proposals would put an end to the ivory trade and afford elephants the highest protection under international law.
So far, France and Luxembourg, as well as 58 other NGOs have thrown their weight behind the proposals and there has been an Avaaz petition calling on the EU to support the AEC’s proposal for a total ban on all ivory trade. The petition garnered well over a million and half signatures with over 32,000 emails sent to governments across Europe from their citizens, as well as to the EU Commission from African members largely from the Appendix II countries.
The United States has implemented a near total ban on the domestic ivory trade. China has banned imports and will release a timetable to close its domestic market by the end of 2016. Hong Kong has announced it will close its market.
The EU has signed several high-level government declarations which call for an end to wildlife trafficking, closure of domestic markets and support for initiatives to reduce demand, however, they have stopped short of supporting Appendix I, which according to Daniela Freyer Co-Founder of Pro-Wildlife, a partner NGO with FFW, «is of deep concern especially in light of their much publicized support of banning all ivory trade.»
It will however, be up to the whole world to decide on the fate of elephants in Johannesburg next month.
«The most important decision ever for elephants will take place in South Africa in September and October,» says Vera Weber, «the 182 member Parties will have to choose whether to save elephants or continue to allow them to be slaughtered and face certain extinction.»
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): www.cites.org
Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO - CITES: http://www.blv.admin.ch/themen/handel_wild/05116/index.html?lang=en