France steps up fight against ivory trade

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France Steps Up Fight Against Ivory Trade As Poachers Attack Again in Cameroon

Ivory poachers are again active in Boubandjida National Park, in northeast French-speaking Cameroon where in 2012 Sudanese Janjaweed poachers massacred hundreds of elephants in a slaughter that shocked international conservationists, the French branch of International Fund for Animal Welfarereported late January.

Unscrupulous ivory traders and rapacious poachers are threatening the survival of elephants (Credit Mike Alexander)

Earlier the battle to save the elephant sparked a well publicized campaign against this horrific trade with France destroying three tonnes of confiscated ivory, valued at over one million Euros, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Also on July 20 last year France 2 broadcast Ivory War, a reportage by Jean Sébastien Desbordes and Matthew Martin on the massacre of Boubandjida elephants and the devastation caused by illegal ivory trafficking. Watch the play it again report here.

Elephant massacre by ivory poachers in Boubandjida National Park Cameroon, near Chad border (Credit screengrab)

For NGO’s involved in trying to eliminate the trade altogether, France’s big Eiffel Tower show did not go far enough and no fewer than thirty seven of them last month sent an open letter to the French government asking for further steps to be taken.

Ségolène Royal, Minister of Sustainable Energy and Development, was quick to respond and on January 30 this year her department announced measures to suspend the export of all raw and cut ivory.

She also sent a letter to the European Commission urging all members who had not already done so to follow suit. The NGOs had hoped that the internal trade in ivory would be prohibited which has not yet happened though the ministry is now implementing tighter controls.

Ivory trade threatens elephants (Credit Mike Alexander)

The Born Free Foundation estimate that between 2008 and 2013 thirty to fifty thousand elephants were poached each year, a vast slaughter at a rate which means the numbers lost cannot be replaced at the natural breeding rate of the elephant.

Most of this poaching takes place in Africa and in some parts of central Africa, regional elephant populations are thought to have decreased by a staggering 68%. Poaching is not an issue that takes a toll only on natural resources. There is now a security cost as well, with more and more links proven between the ivory trade and the funding of armed rebels and insurgents.

Africa's magnificent elephants, will illegal Ivory traders  wipe them out? (Credit Mike Alexander)

The Born Free Foundation also point to connections between criminal and political organizations in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and the poaching and illegal trade in ivory.

According to the charity group Save the Elephants, the price of ivory leapt to $2100 a kilo in 2014, up from $750 in 2010. The overall trade in illegal wildlife and wildlife products is the fourth most lucrative illegal activity in the world, worth a mind numbing $19 billion a year.

NGOs involved in trying to protect elephants want a total ban on the world trade in ivory which some governments with healthy elephant populations are against. Those countries claim that selling their ivory stocks on the open market provides valuable finance toward the sustainable management of their nature reserves. The NGOs, however, point out that allowing some ivory to be legally traded leads to confusion among buyers who are unsure if the products reaching their shores are legal or not. More importantly it also allows poached ivory to be laundered on the black market.

In a survey conducted by the influential British newspaper the Times, one third of people interviewed in China were not even aware that an elephant had been killed in order for its tusks to be removed and marketed in China.

The devastating work of ivory poachers in Boubandjida National Park Cameroon , near Chad border (Credit screengrab)

In yet another blow to the elephant population, Zimbabwe recently announced plans to export captured elephant calves to the United Arab Emirates, China and France where they would be placed in zoos or become show animals.

In last month’s move toward further protection of elephants Ségolène Royal’s department announced that this transaction will not now take place.

Below is an extract from a recent reportage by Lesley Evans Ogden  – The Power of Elephant Matriarchs:

“Among African elephants, surviving threats—from drought and food scarcity to poachers—is a family matter. Much has been learned over the years about elephant social life, but there are many enigmas left to decipher, especially about how elephant grandes dames rule their world. At the same time, poachers are taking a heavy toll on elephant populations, and the disruptive effects of these losses on elephant society are still being explored. Amboseli is home to the world’s best-known elephants, which have been studied continuously since 1972, the year AERP was established by Cynthia Moss, a U.S. journalist turned biologist who still heads the group. Every individual in Amboseli’s elephant population is identified by unique ear notches. Fortunately, the park has been spared the widespread devastation that elephant populations have experienced across the rest of Africa. While Kenya’s elephant numbers declined by 85 percent between 1973 and 1989, Amboseli’s population has been growing slowly since 1972, when it was about 585. The park now stands out as one of the few places in Africa where the current population—1,510 animals—includes an entire age range, from newborn calves to many large bulls more than 40 years old and matriarchs in their 60s…”

Writer: Mike Alexander
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