September 2016 is proving to be one of the most important months for Africa’s elephants and elephant conservation as leaders gather to make key decisions.
Most recently, Britain banned all sales of ivory not proven to be over 70-years-old, closing a loophole commonly used by dealers who claim ivory is antique.
Just a few weeks ago, members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature voted to close all domestic ivory markets, an important move ahead of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Conference of the Parties (CoP17) at the end of the month in Johannesburg, South Africa.
While the IUCN vote is not legally binding, it carries considerable weight at CITES, where the elephant debate is expected the be contentious.
CITES members will vote on the closure of domestic ivory markets, which several countries oppose, including Japan, Namibia and South Africa. They argue that the current international ban on ivory sales -- expiring next year -- doesn't prevent poaching and they should be allowed to sell off large stockpiles of ivory. They also argue their elephant populations are thriving across southern Africa and that banning legal ivory trade would only encourage poaching.
But that argument doesn't hold up against the findings of the Great Elephant Census. A recent analysis of the data showed elephant populations are actually declining in seven countries across southern Africa. Between 2007 and 2014, elephant populations declined by 12 percent and the rate of decline has accelerated to 4.4 percent per year in Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The numbers don't lie. Africa's elephant populations are in crisis and shutting down the ivory trade would be a major step toward establishing sustainable populations across the continent.
We are encouraging all leaders at CITES to take action and vote to close all domestic ivory markets.
Want to get involved? #JoinTheHerd and let the world know we must stop the ivory trade.