Ivory burning in Gabon: why it's good news for elephants
12 April 2012
Gabon will soon be burning its entire stockpile of ivory - and that’s good news for central Africa’s embattled elephants. Burning the tusks will stop them leaking onto the black market, and shows that Gabon is serious about clamping down on the criminal networks involved in poaching and trafficking endangered species. Last year, the central African country created an elite military unit to secure its parks and to protect wildlife, especially against poaching and illegal ivory trading.
But we urgently need Gabon’s neighbours to follow its lead. Thousands of elephants are killed in the region each year for their ivory, to meet the rampant demand for carvings and ornaments in Asia. Despite controls on international trade, corruption and weak law enforcement mean poaching and smuggling remain a huge problem.
“With a very few exceptions it’s illegal to trade ivory internationally,” explains Heather Sohl, who leads WWF-UK’s work on combating illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. “But some countries have domestic markets that are very poorly regulated – and that provides an opportunity where illegal ivory can be sold, which criminals have been quick to exploit.”
A growing problem
An estimated 5,000 to 12,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks, and recently things have escalated. In January this year, poachers massacred hundreds of elephants in a national park in Cameroon. Soldiers responding to the slaughter were also reportedly killed.
You can see just how bad things are by watching the BBC's Panorama programme (first screened on 12 April), Ivory Wars: Out of Africa - which goes undercover in central Africa and China to reveal the full shocking extent of the illegal ivory trade.
Tackling wildlife crime in Africa and Asia
Gabon announced its intentions last week ahead of a meeting it hosted on tackling wildlife crime in central Africa, which is a major threat to endangered species like elephants. The meeting brought together governments from central Africa and Asia, along with wildlife trade experts and international organisations including Interpol and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). They agreed a number of recommendations for increasing national, regional and international cooperation to combat wildlife crimes.
Watch the BBC Panorama programme Ivory Wars: Out of Africa
Help us stop illegal wildlife trade
Find out how we’re protecting African elephants
blog comments powered by Disqus