The countries, part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), are gathering to decide, among other proposals, whether to grant requests to Tanzania and Zambia to lower the protection status of their elephants, allowing them to conduct one-time sales of stockpiled ivory.
Such sales, however, according to an international team of 27 scientists and conservationists writing in the March 12 edition of Science, could lead to the increased slaughter of elephants for their ivory throughout Africa. CITES is an international agreement between the governments of 175 member countries. Its goals center on ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The two-week meeting began March 13 in Doha.
In the "Policy Forum" article, the scientists -- including two from Princeton University -- argue that the convention should reject requests to conduct the sales, which are supposed to be on ivory taken from dead animals or those culled under legal animal control efforts. In the past, such sales, they argue, have created a demand for ivory on the black market, where the substance fetches prices 10 times those obtained in legal auctions. This leads to poaching and threatens to reverse the recovery of African elephants observed since the ban on international ivory trade was put in place two decades ago.
"CITES has a tendency to be swayed by proposals suggesting that large species such as elephants can be exploited sustainably and the profits set aside to provide funds for future conservation when there is no evidence that these have ever worked other than superficially in the short term," said Andrew Dobson, one of the article's authors and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. "In contrast, there is evidence that shows how rapidly these schemes lead to loss of the resource species and only short-term profitability to the few individuals who ran the scheme."
The scientists said Zambia and Tanzania are major sources and trafficking corridors for Africa's illegal ivory, demonstrated by tons of contraband ivory seized in 2002, 2006 and 2009. DNA sampling on the 2002 and 2006 seizures traced the majority of that ivory back to those two nations.
In the last 30 years African elephants have declined to about 35 percent of their original numbers, and their population today stands at less than 500,000.
"CITES must consider the precedent that will be set if these petitions are approved," said Katarzyna Nowak, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton and an author of the article. "Such sales could have far-reaching implications on elephant populations and their habitats in not only Tanzania and Zambia but in those neighboring countries with shared elephant populations, as well as in central African states whose illegal ivory passes through Tanzania and Zambia on its way to Asian markets."
An international ban on ivory trade was enacted in 1989, and for nearly a decade, elephant poaching dropped dramatically and elephant populations recovered. However, in 1997, the first petitions to lessen the endangered protections for elephants to allow for occasional limited ivory sales were made. Both the occasional limited sales and also economic growth in China, Japan and Thailand renewed demand for ivory, which led to a sharp increase in poaching since 2000.
At present, the convention imposes two levels of protection for elephants. The strictest level, which currently applies to both Zambia and Tanzania, does not allow any sales of ivory. To be allowed limited trade, the countries are supposed to demonstrate that their elephant populations are secure, that law enforcement is effective in combating poaching and that the ivory sales will not be detrimental to elephants.
However, neither nation has met these criteria, according to the scientists. In addition, China and Japan, the only nations approved to import ivory, are among the largest consumers of illegal ivory and have done little to ensure the ivory they sell was obtained legally. That means they also have not met the convention's standards for taking part in legal ivory trade.
"We're making decisions that have a huge impact on the world's ecosystems, and we're not relying on the best available science," said Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington, the article's lead author. "This is a problem with the convention's decisions in general, even the potential long-term impacts of those decisions are immense."
Kitta MacPherson | EurekAlert!
Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.
The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
21.08.2018 | Life Sciences
21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering