KWS welcomes the British Government’s Plan on ending domestic Ivory markets

NAIROBI, JANUARY, 08 2018 – Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) congratulates the British government on its plan to close – with some limited exemptions – its domestic Ivory markets.

It is understood that ivory (whether raw or worked) continues to be traded legally within UK and the other EU Member States, in auction houses, markets, shops and online – and that antique items can even be traded without permits or certificates.  The existence of legal ivory markets and exports provide opportunities for laundering illegal ivory. The existence of these markets and exports also fuel demand for ivory within the UK and abroad and thus contribute to poaching.

KWS and Kenya welcome the plan by UK to close its ivory markets as this will obliterate any chances for opportunists, who may have in the past used the existing market in antique ivory as a cover for trade in illegal ivory.

Speaking at the start of January the UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove said,

“The decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world’s most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol – so we want to ban its sale. These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory.”

Effective January 1, 2018, China banned the mainland domestic sale of elephant ivory and related products, a significant move toward slowing the annual slaughter of the largest land animals on Earth. The UK’s plan to follow suit could not have come at a better time.

KWS and Kenya recognize this bold step as the equivalent of climbing several rungs up the ladder in the war against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, pulling especially the African elephant further away from the precipice of extinction.

The significance of support from such an influential quarter can be measured in the multiple effects seen in the results on the ground. An example is the global effort focusing on elephant conservation between 2014 to date, targeting ivory source countries, transit and consumer countries, which has led to remarkable reduction in elephant poaching in the source countries and ivory demand in the consumer countries. Further the measures agreed to by States on implementation of  National Ivory Action Plan process under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to combat elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade are yielding positive results.

CITES Parties including the UK, agreed by consensus at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2016 that, legal domestic ivory markets contributing to poaching or illegal trade should be closed as a matter of urgency. This breakthrough agreement has meanwhile been endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. It is encouraging to note that UK is committed and in the path of implementation of this important agreement.

Writing in the Times at the end of 2017, the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said,

“My aim is to make 2018 the year of British leadership in defeating the ivory trade.  Ivory poaching is an abhorrent crime and it is shocking that in the twenty first century we are still witnessing the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants every year for their tusks. It is mankind’s privilege to share the planet with these wonderful creatures but their treatment is heartbreaking. We are committed to tackling this problem and are playing a key role in building global consensus to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade. Our plans to ban the sale of all ivory products in the UK will remove opportunities for criminals to trade illegally-poached ivory, helping to protect this majestic and endangered species.”

The plan to ban ivory sales in the UK and towards implementing the CITES recommendation to close domestic ivory markets is a welcome shot in the arm for Kenya and other elephant range States’ continued conservation efforts, because the demand for ivory is bound to plummet and therefore, a drastic decline in poaching is expected.

KWS and Kenya stand ready to partner closely with the British government, as well as other conservation partners, in all further endeavours to fight elephant poaching , ivory trade and  wildlife crime.

About elephant conservation in Kenya

Kenya Wildlife Service is the national agency mandated with sustainable conservation and management of the country’s wildlife.

The Service, in collaboration with wildlife conservation stakeholders in the country, conducts systematic and periodic elephant counts throughout the country to establish the population status (numbers and distribution) and that of other large land mammals among them the Rhinoceroses, Buffaloes and Giraffes for planning and long term monitoring.

The most recent census results for elephants and other large land mammals were released by Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources at a press conference held at KWS headquarters on December 22, 2017. The results covered census conducted in 2016 and 2017 in five key ecosystems which are elephant distribution areas and revealed thriving elephant populations and decreased poaching trends.

The censuses; aerial total survey of elephants, buffaloes and giraffe in the Laikipia-Samburu-Meru-Marsabit ecosystem in November 2017 showed a 12% increase over the past five years. A total of 7,347 elephants were counted compared to 6,454 elephants counted in 2012, which translated to an annual increase of 2.4% over the period.

In February 2017, the dry-season aerial census for the Tsavo-Mkomazi was conducted. The triennial cross-border survey covered Tsavo East, Tsavo West and , Chyulu National Parks as well as South Kitui National Reserve in Kenya and Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania,. The census showed a growth of 14.7% in the elephant population over the last three years.

A total aerial count of elephants, buffaloes and giraffes in the Maasai Mara ecosystem was carried out in May 2017. It covered an area of 11,681km².

In previous years, between 2008 and 2012, the poaching trend nationally had been on a steep incline. This trend has since been reversed, largely due to enhanced wildlife law enforcement efforts backed by the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA) 2013. These efforts have led to 78% reduction in elephant poaching in 2016 as compared to 2012 and 2013, when poaching was at its zenith. Cases of elephant poaching in 2016 were the lowest since 2007. Fewer than 100 elephants were killed for their tusks in 2017.

Given her global position, the United Kingdom has set the bar for other developed countries for stronger support for the African and Asian elephant range states, in their quest to conserve their wildlife.

In October 2018, the UK will host a fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This follows the ground breaking London 2014 conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.

The success of the ban will be guaranteed by having in place strong legislation and implementation frameworks that support the intended national and global objectives. Withal, it is imperative that there be effective enforcement of such laws by ensuring the availability of frameworks and resources: financial, logistical and human – to ensure compliance towards the ultimate objective of the pronouncement.