Monday 22 March 2010 was a happy day for pro-elephant groups worldwide. Updates from Doha confirmed that the 15th Conference of Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) had voted NO to proposals submitted separately by Zambia and Tanzania for permission to sell their stockpiled ivory.
The marginal wins for the no vote in this historic moment also ensured that the elephants of Tanzania and Zambia remain in the Appendix I list of endangered species meaning that no trade in ivory or live elephants can take place. Appendix I is the highest protection list in the CITES scheme of things.
Tanzania was asking to sell almost 200,000 pounds (90,000 kilogrammes) of ivory that would have generated as much as $20 million. The Tanzania proposal lost marginally when delegates votes 59 for and 60 against. 13 representatives abstained from this vote.
On seeing Tanzania’s downfall, Zambia hurriedly adjusted their proposal to remove the clause on sale of 48,000 pounds (21,700 kilograms) of ivory and tried to have its elephant population down-listed from Appendix I to Appendix II. This proposal was also outvoted with a larger margin than that of Tanzania with 36 votes in favour, 55 against and 40 abstentions.
Conservationists and CITES delegates, especially those from the 23 state African Elephant Coalition were elated despite the fact that the proposal by Kenya, Mali and others on behalf of the Coalition for a 20-year moratorium on trade was also rejected. The defeat of Kenya’s proposal also meant that the clause that sought to amend the ambiguity in the 2007 annotation for the existing 9-year no trade moratorium was also thrown out. The ambiguity in the annotation provided the loophole that allowed Tanzania and Zambia to submit their proposals right in the middle of a moratorium.
Well, generally Monday was a good day for the African Elephant, but there is no guarantee that we will not go through the same proposal-counterproposal shenanigans again in 3 years since the ambiguity is still there. Ideally, there should have been no proposals on elephants during a no-trade moratorium.
The elephants rest easy for now, but there is a likelihood that Southern Africa states may re-introduce the ivory debate in the plenary on Thursday. Keep your eyes peeled.
Follow the proceedings from Doha on the CITES Website