Once the existing global embargo on ivory sales expires in 2017, elephants may be doomed to extinction, according to a statement by officials from 29 African states. The European Union published a position paper on July 1 that outlines its opposition to a proposed global ban on the ivory trade, preferring instead to allow individual nations to manage their own elephant populations. Because of the complex international network of ivory trafficking, wildlife officials feel strongly that elephant populations will suffer in the absence of a comprehensive ban.
The African Elephant Coalition (AEC)–a coalition of 29 African states–predicts a mass extinction within 25 years, in the absence of strong global protection against ivory hunters. They are demanding elephants be given an ‘Annex I’ listing which would make all international ivory trading illegal. By opposing the listing, which will be voted on at the Convention on International Trade in International Species (Cites) conference in Johannesburg this September, the EU is endangering tens of thousands of elephants a year, according to the coalition.
Despite the embargo currently in place, elephants are still in grave danger on the African continent. An estimated 20,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2014, and Tanzania and Mozambique lost more than half their elephant populations between 2009 and 2015. Elephants population in east and central Africa are suffering a similar fate.
The EU makes up a majority voter block at Cites, with 28 seats, so its position is crucial to the outcome of the proposed global ban. “We need a balanced position,” an unnamed EU member told the Guardian. “We admit that the domestic trade in ivory should be banned in those situations where it can facilitate illegal trade but don’t fully agree with the inclusion of the African elephant in ‘Annex I’ in those four countries. We would encourage the African countries to have a dialogue about this.”
That dialogue has been ongoing for years, as wildlife officials across the continent struggle to stamp out poachers and protect elephant populations. However, without international support, the AEC feels that Africa’s elephants don’t stand a chance in the long term.
Via The Guardian