Future trade in ivory dealt major blow yesterday; Trade in live elephants on agenda for today
Donald Lehr
27 September 2016

Providing analysis at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg, on behalf of Fondation Franz Weber, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Pro Wildlife. Our experts are available for background and interviews. CONTACT: Don Lehr / dblehr@cs.com / US mobile: +1 917 304 4058 / SA mobile: +27 (0)76 183 1864

Developments from yesterday afternoon – Monday 26 September

The Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg yesterday voted on three proposals regarding the Decision-Making Mechanism for a process in trade in ivory, which would continue discussions on allowing ivory trade in the future.

A proposal from several African elephant range States of the African Elephant Coalition to end further debate on a mechanism to legalise ivory trade in the future failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority to pass.

A proposal from Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to adopt, without further discussion, a mechanism to permit commercial exports of ivory from “Appendix II” range States to any importing “partner” states was rejected by the required two-thirds majority.

Finally, a proposal from the Secretariat to extend the mandate to the CITES Standing Committee to continue the debate on the Decision-Making Mechanism was also rejected by the required two-thirds majority.

“If 16.55 (the mandate) is not extended, it will die, it will be moribund,” said Jonathan Barzdo, Chair of the Committee discussing these issues as he explained to the delegates the meaning of a “yes” or “no” vote to the Secretariat’s proposal.

Although the mandate was not extended yesterday, the issue can be revived in the plenary sessions next week.

Quote from Keith Lindsay, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya

“The surge of feeling among African nations we saw last evening is a response to the rejection of the Decision-making mechanism,” says Keith Lindsay of the Amboselli Trust for Elephants based in Kenya. “It’s a reaction to what they’ve seen happening in their countries – they’ve seen their elephants wiped out.”

Quote from Robert Hepworth, former Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee and now senior advisor to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

“I was the Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee charged with the responsibility of conducting this ivory trade experiment in 1997,” said Robert Hepworth, former Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee and now senior advisor to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. “The experiment has failed and poaching has increased. I came out of retirement to put an end to it and protect elephants for future generations.”

Developments from yesterday morning – Monday 26 September

The morning negotiating session focused on two documents submitted by member States of the African Elephant Coalition: 1) Closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory (Document / Analysis) and 2) Ivory stockpiles (Document / Analysis).

After Niger and Chad, respectively, presented the documents, Namibia moved to stop debate on the closure of domestic markets document on the grounds that it falls outside the Convention’s mandate of international trade and that domestic markets impinge on the sovereign rights of individual nations.

Israel intervened and drew attention to Rule 14.1 of the Convention which states that “The provisions of the Convention shall in no way affect the right of Parties to adopt stricter domestic measures regarding the conditions for trade, taking, possession or transport of specimens of species included in Appendices I, II and III, or the complete prohibition thereof…” Kenya agreed.

The motion was put to an immediate vote and the motion was rejected by a sizable majority. A Working Group to continue debate on the two documents was formed and met for the first time at 7:00 PM last evening.

Today’s Agenda – Tuesday 27 September

Negotiations on elephants and ivory continue. Links to the “Working Document” to be discussed and our brief Analysis follow:

57.4 – Trade in live elephants: Proposed revision of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens: Document / Analysis


Background on CITES

CITES was established in 1973, entered into force in 1975, and accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. Currently 182 countries are Parties to the Convention.

Background on ivory trade

All populations of African elephants were listed on CITES Appendix I in 1989, effectively banning international ivory trade. But the protection was weakened in 1997 and 2000 when populations in four countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) were down-listed to Appendix II (a less endangered status) to allow two sales of ivory stockpiles to Japan and China in 1999 and 2008.


Fondation Franz Weber (FFW), based in Switzerland, has been campaigning for the survival of the African elephant and the complete ban of the trade in ivory for 40 years. FFW has had observer status at CITES since 1989 and has been a partner of the African Elephant Coalition since its creation in 2008.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), based in the UK, is an adaptable and flexible organization responding promptly to conservation threats by supporting trusted, reputable individuals and organizations operating in the field. Lean on administration but generous on funding, DSWF supports a range of innovative and vital projects throughout Africa and Asia.

Pro Wildlife (PW), based in Germany, is committed to protecting wildlife and works to ensure the survival of species in their habitat, as well as the protection of individual animals. This includes advocacy, strengthening national and international regulations and ensuring their implementation.

Donald Lehr

Media Relations, Public Affairs and Production Consultant

The Nolan/Lehr Group, Inc.

dblehr@cs.com / US mob: +1 917 304 4058 / SA mob: +27 (0)76 183 1864 / office: +1 212 967 8200 / skype: dblehr / www.nolanlehrgroup.com