This week conservationists, policymakers and business representatives are gathered for the 2017 Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which runs through Oct. 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
What’s at stake are some major decisions about ivory sales — whether to open them up or whether to encourage the 181 CITES signatories to close their domestic ivory trade.
The domestic ivory ban is a key objective for conservationists, including the Elephants Action Network, which met at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting last week, to discuss next steps in their work to stop the killing and trafficking of elephants, and to stop the demand for ivory.
They were responding in part to the Great Elephant Census report released last month by Vulcan Inc., a Seattle-based company started by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen, which was followed up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s African Elephant Status Report, launched at CITES. Both found that elephant populations are declining dramatically: At the rate of one every 15 minutes.
For countries such as Kenya and Tanzania that rely on elephants in their tourism sectors, that is especially significant. A 2014 report conducted by the iworry campaign, an elephant awareness campaign by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, found that living elephants are worth 76 times more than dead elephants. One elephant could bring in more than $1.6 million in tourism dollars in its lifetime, according to that report. And because the ivory trade is dominated by criminal syndicates, it creates other challenges as it funnels dirty money into political systems or drug, human, and arms trafficking cartels.
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