Attendees at one of the world's most important wildlife conferences will this morning meet in Johannesburg with the future of Africa's remaining elephants hanging in the balance. Experts from the international conservation charity ZSL will be active across what is expected to be a fiercely-contested discussion between different member states (or 'Parties').
The 17th CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) CoP (Conference of the Parties) will aim to address critical issues currently jeopardising the future of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) across their range, in particular the grave threat posed by poaching of these iconic mega-herbivores to satisfy demand for ivory.
The recently-published Great Elephant Census recorded a decline of around 30 per cent in the savannah elephant populations of 15 of the 18 sub-Saharan African states surveyed – equivalent to almost 150,000 animals – between 2007-2015. The situation is even more grave for the forest elephants of Central Africa, with a 62 per cent decline in populations of this sub-species from 2000-2010. Just 450,000 elephants remain in total and it's estimated that an animal is killed by poachers every 15 minutes.
Attendees at CITES CoP17 have the opportunity to take action reverse this disturbing situation. The delegation from international conservation charity ZSL will be making a number of recommendations to the assembled Parties based on the expertise gained from overseeing field projects in over 50 countries worldwide, including the majority of African elephant range states
Commenting on the debate at CoP17, Paul De Ornellas – ZSL's lead on illegal wildlife trade – said: ''Perhaps no other animal symbolises the plight of the natural world as powerfully as the African elephant. The current situation looks bleak but the Parties at CITES CoP17 have the opportunity to make a real difference by strengthening measures to combat poaching and trafficking, as well as resisting efforts to re-open international trade in ivory. It's likely negotiations will go down to the wire but alongside our fellow NGO attendees, ZSL will be keeping up the pressure to secure the best outcome for Africa's surviving elephants.''
ZSL's key recommendations to Parties include:
- Opposing any efforts to resume the international legal trade in ivory
- Supporting the closure of all domestic markets for ivory
- Strengthening existing initiatives to address ivory trafficking including National Ivory Action Plans and supporting the African Elephant Action Plan and Elephant Protection Initiative
- Enhancing programmes to reduce consumer demand for ivory
Away from Johannesburg, ZSL is also closely involved with number of other elephant conservation campaigns closer to home helping secure the UK Government's recent pledge to strengthen regulation of its own domestic ivory market.
Visit our CITES CoP17 microsite for more information on ZSL's work at CITES CoP17, across both elephants and a number of other key themes.