(Newsroom America) -- Elephant poaching levels are the worst in a decade and recorded ivory seizures are at their highest levels since 1989, according to a report published today by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The report analyses data from the CITES programme on Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), IUCN’s data on the status of elephant populations, the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) managed by TRAFFIC, and the CITES trade database managed by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).
These authoritative sources of information have shown a very close correspondence between trends in elephant poaching and trends in large-scale ivory seizures, detecting essentially the same patterns at different points in the illegal ivory trade chain.
The CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, said we need to enhance our collective efforts across range, transit and consumer states to reverse the current disturbing trends in elephant poaching and ivory smuggling.
"While being essential, enforcement efforts to stop wildlife crime must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband. The whole ‘enforcement chain’ must work together.”
According to ETIS data, three of the five years in which the greatest volumes of ivory were seized globally occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In 2011 alone, there were 14 large-scale ivory seizures—a double-digit figure for the first time in 23 years, when ETIS records were first compiled. They totalled an estimated 24.3 tonnes of ivory; more than in any previous year.
Large-scale ivory seizures involving more than 800 kg of ivory in a single transaction typically indicate the participation of organised crime.
China and Thailand are the two primary destinations for illegal ivory consignments exported from Africa according to the seizure data. Seizures of large ivory consignments in Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam since 2009, were believed to be in transit to China and Thailand.
Some African and Asian countries have made significant efforts to enhance enforcement. For example, China conducted earlier this year a major operation which resulted in the seizure of 1,366.3 kg of ivory and the arrest of 13 suspects.
Most of the ivory smuggling containers leave the African continent through Indian Ocean seaports in East African countries, primarily Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania.
“Evidence is steadily mounting which shows that African elephants are facing their most serious crisis since international commercial trade in ivory was generally prohibited under CITES in 1989”, said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Elephant and Rhino Programme Leader and the Director of ETIS.
These findings are matched by data on poaching levels in Africa from the CITES MIKE programme. MIKE has documented a steady increase in levels of elephant poaching across the continent since 2005, with the levels in 2011 being the highest since monitoring began in 2002. Poaching levels are increasing in all countries where African elephants occur, and may be leading to dramatic declines in some populations, but particularly in Central African countries, where poaching levels are highest. This was brought to international attention earlier this year by the killing of hundreds of elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon.
The most recent continent-wide compilation of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) numbers dates back to 2007, when there were at least half a million elephants in Africa, and perhaps as many as 700,000, spread over some 3.3 million km², an area slightly larger than India.
The findings, largely based on information submitted by governments, will be presented and discussed at the 62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee to be held in Geneva from 23 to 27 July 2012.