30.09.2016 – CITES: Latest News on the struggle for a better protection of Elephants

The African Elephant Coalition Support Group, led by the Swiss non-governmental organization Fondation Franz Weber, is supporting the Coalition’s 29 African member States to secure a permanent ban on international trade in elephant ivory at the global Convention on wildlife trade this week and next in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Providing analysis at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg, on behalf of Fondation Franz Weber, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Pro Wildlife.

See an in-depth update and analysis on this weeks' developments below.

The African Elephant Coalition (AEC) has submitted a package of five proposals to the Convention, formally known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The proposals aim to fully ban international trade in ivory by listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I, the highest level of protection under international law; close domestic ivory markets around the world; end further debate on a mechanism to legalise ivory trade in the future; improve management of ivory stockpiles and endorse their destruction; and restrict trade in live, wild-caught elephants.

Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) is a partner of the African Elephant Coalition, which was created in 2008.

We are distributing daily briefings from CoP17 to explain the proceedings with links to relevant documents, and provide quotes from experts. Here are briefings from the past few days. We expect many of these issues to come to the floor in Sunday’s session, and you will receive up-to-date analysis. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Elephants & Ivory Report CITES CoP17 – Tuesday 27 September

Future trade in ivory dealt major blow yesterday; Trade in live elephants on agenda for today

Developments from yesterday afternoon – Monday 26 September

The Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg yesterday voted on three proposals regarding the Decision-Making Mechanism for a process in trade in ivory, which would continue discussions on allowing ivory trade in the future.

A proposal from several African elephant range States of the AEC to end further debate on a mechanism to legalise ivory trade in the future failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority to pass. (Analysis of that proposal)

A proposal from Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to adopt, without further discussion, a mechanism to permit commercial exports of ivory from «Appendix II» range States to any importing «partner» states was rejected by the required two-thirds majority. (Analysis of that proposal)

Finally, a proposal from the Secretariat to extend the mandate to the CITES Standing Committee to continue the debate on the Decision-Making Mechanism was also rejected by the required two-thirds majority.

«If 1bb6.55 (the mandate) is not extended, it will die, it will be moribund,» said Jonathan Barzdo, Chair of the Committee discussing these issues as he explained to the delegates the meaning of a «Yes» or «No» vote to the Secretariat’s proposal.

Although the mandate was not extended yesterday, the issue can be revived in the plenary sessions next week.

Quote from Keith Lindsay, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya:
«The surge of feeling among African nations we saw last evening is a response to the rejection of the Decision-making mechanism,» says Keith Lindsay of the Amboselli Trust for Elephants based in Kenya. «It’s a reaction to what they’ve seen happening in their countries – they’ve seen their elephants wiped out.»

Quote from Robert Hepworth, former Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee and now senior advisor to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation:
«I was the Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee charged with the responsibility of conducting this ivory trade experiment in 1997,» said Robert Hepworth, former Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee and now senior advisor to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. «The experiment has failed and poaching has increased. I came out of retirement to put an end to it and protect elephants for future generations.»

Developments from yesterday morning – Monday 26 September

The morning negotiating session focused on two documents submitted by member States of the African Elephant Coalition: 1) Closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory (Document / Analysis) and 2) Ivory stockpiles (Document / Analysis).

After Niger and Chad, respectively, presented the documents, Namibia moved to stop debate on the closure of domestic markets document on the grounds that it falls outside the Convention’s mandate of international trade and that domestic markets impinge on the sovereign rights of individual nations.

Israel intervened and drew attention to Rule 14.1 of the Convention which states that «The provisions of the Convention shall in no way affect the right of Parties to adopt stricter domestic measures regarding the conditions for trade, taking, possession or transport of specimens of species included in Appendices I, II and III, or the complete prohibition thereof…» Kenya agreed.

The motion was put to an immediate vote and the motion was rejected by a sizable majority. A Working Group to continue debate on the two documents was formed and met for the first time at 7:00 PM last evening.

Today’s Agenda – Tuesday 27 September

Negotiations on elephants and ivory continue. Links to the «Working Document» to be discussed and our brief Analysis follow:

57.4 - Trade in live elephants: Proposed revision of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens: Document / Analysis

#  #  #

Elephants & Ivory Report CITES CoP17 – Wednesday 28 September

Talks Continue on Closure of Domestic Ivory Markets

Developments from yesterday – Tuesday 27 September

1.  Working Group on 1) closure of domestic markets of elephant ivory and 3) ivory stockpiles

The Working Group discussing two overlapping proposals on the closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory submitted by the United States (Doc. 27 Annex 1) and member States of the AEC (57.2), along with a proposal from the member States of the African Elephant Coalition on Ivory stockpiles (57.3) met for the second time last evening.

New text harmonizing elements of the original USA and African Elephant Coalition proposals on domestic markets was presented to the Working Group.

Sources inside the Working Group noted:

Frank exchanges between key actors Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, the US, China and Japan about whether or how domestic markets should be closed, in whole or in part.

The EU was oddly quiet throughout the evening, perhaps preparing the ground to use its 28 votes to broker a compromise.

One country is holding out on whether the word «destruction» can be used in the final agreement on ivory stockpiles.

2.  Committee II debate on live trade in elephants

Committee II discussed two overlapping proposals on live trade in elephants:

Doc. 57.4 - Trade in live elephants: Proposed revision of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens (submitted by member States of the African Elephant Coalition)

Doc. 40 - International trade in live Appendix II animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations (submitted by the USA)

A lively debate on the floor ensued with numerous interventions centering on whether export of live, wild-caught elephants should be allowed or not and, if so, under what conditions.

Kenya, a co-proponent of Doc. 57.4, and the USA agreed to form a drafting group to attempt to isolate what can be agreed here and reach a decision on how to move forward.

Today’s Agenda – Wednesday 28 September

The Working Group on domestic markets and ivory stockpiles will meet again this evening.  No specific discussions on elephants or ivory today in Committee I or II.

#  #  #

Elephants & Ivory Report CITES CoP17 – Thursday 29 September

Text on closure of domestic ivory markets agreed in Working Group

Developments from yesterday – Wednesday 28 September

Working Group on closure of domestic markets of elephant ivory

Compromise text was agreed on the two overlapping proposals on the closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory submitted by member States of the African Elephant Coalition (57.2) and the United States (Doc. 27 Annex 1)

A positive and transformed mood in the Working Group resulted in a wide consensus embracing the African Elephant Coalition, SADC countries, the US, the EU and Japan. China is likely to accept the final text but stated that they wanted even tougher measures.

Key elements of the compromise text (as of 28 September @ 22:00) include:

RECOMMENDS that all Parties and non-Parties in whose jurisdiction there is a legal domestic market for ivory or domestic commerce in ivory that is contributing to poaching or illegal trade, take all necessary legislative, regulatory and enforcement measures to close their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory as a matter of urgency.

RECOGNIZES that narrow exemptions to this closure for some items may be warranted; any exemptions should not contribute to poaching or illegal trade.

URGES those Parties that have not closed their domestic ivory markets for commercial trade in ivory to implement the above recommendation as a matter of urgency.

Announcement has not been made on when the compromise text on the closure of domestic markets in elephant ivory will come to the floor in Committee II for further debate and potential approval, but it most likely will be Sunday morning.

Today’s Agenda – Thursday 29 September

Committees I and II continue to work through their respective agendas.  There are no specific discussions on elephants or ivory today in Committee I or II. 

Providing analysis at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg, on behalf of Fondation Franz Weber, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Pro Wildlife.  Our experts are available for background and interviews.  CONTACT: Don Lehr / dblehr@cs.com / US mobile: +1 917 304 4058 / SA mobile: +27 (0)76 183 1864