People, Environment

IUCN Passes Resolution Banning Ivory Trade

African savanna elephants have declined at a rate of 27,000 elephants per year in less than a decade.African savanna elephants have declined at a rate of 27,000 elephants per year in less than a decade.

A new resolution to ban all domestic ivory sales has been passed by a global group of conservationists and governments.

The measure, adopted on Saturday at a major summit in Hawaii, aims to curb the illegal killing of elephants, whose numbers are rapidly dwindling as poachers slaughter them for their tusks and humans encroach on elephants’ natural habitats.

“Elephants have had enough of the ivory trade and so has the world,” Cristian Samper, president and CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement after the vote at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress.

A coalition of nations, including the United States and African countries Gabon, Kenya and Malawi, had urged the IUCN last week to adopt the motion to stop internal ivory trading, Mashable reported.

A new aerial survey found that African savanna elephants have declined at a rate of 27,000 elephants per year—about 8% of the population—with a total of 144,000 savanna elephants lost in less than a decade, according to the Great Elephant Census.

The research, led by the World Conservation Society and funded by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, also found that several elephant populations, particularly in West and Central Africa, have declined to dangerously low levels and risk local extinction.

The IUCN does not regulate the ivory trade, domestically or globally. Saturday’s resolution instead is designed to encourage nations to adopt domestic bans at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this month.

Even though the international trade in ivory has been banned for more than 25 years, a flourishing black market has led to the slaughter of elephants, as well as the people charged with protecting them.

The first continent-wide census of Africa’s savanna elephants found that nearly a third were wiped out between 2007 and 2014. Poachers target the animals to supply ivory from their tusks in Asia. Gangs can get $1,100 per kilogram for ivory in China,

The United Nations Environment Program estimated that around 100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012, out of a total population of less than 500,000 elephants.

Illegal trade in wildlife and natural resources, including ivory, rhino horns, fish, apes and pangolins, is valued at up to $213 billion annually, according to the UN.

Still, efforts to ban domestic ivory sales have garnered support from the world’s two biggest economies: the United States and China.

In June, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a near-total ban on domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory. In September 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to shut down its domestic ivory market and enact “nearly complete bans” on ivory imports and exports.

According to Samper, “The shutting down of domestic ivory markets will send a clear signal to traffickers and organized criminal syndicates that ivory is worthless and will no longer support their criminal activities causing security problems in local communities and wiping out wildlife,” he said in the statement.