Sunday, September 27, 2015

Long Time Coming: Banning Blood Ivory

mature bulls, credit: NatGeo
After the visit of Chinese Premier Xi, the White House was able to announce Friday that both countries have committed to ivory trade bans. The trade bans are described as "nearly complete". China is the world leader in ivory consumption, but the US is not far behind. This is the first time China and the US have made a specific, public commitment to protect wildlife. This precedent is significant because the Chinese government controls the Chinese ivory trade itself. Conservationists welcome the announcement with reservations about its actual implementation as an elephant is illegally killed every 15 minutes for its tusks.
credit: B. Stirton

The enormous pressure of poaching is having genetic effects for elephants in Africa. In Mozambique, where a decades long civil war nearly wiped out elephants, a generation of tuskless elephants has been produced because individuals with tusks were selectively slaughtered to fuel the civil war with materiel and manpower. Despite  increasing trade restrictions, trophy tusks can still be imported into the US with proper certificates. All trophy hunting should be stopped immediately world-wide to reduce the unsustainable rate of elephant mortality. China has lobbied hard in the past to obtain permission from CITES to conduct a controlled domestic market . Under pressure from the world's second largest economy, CITES granted the request for an exemption to the global embargo begun in 1990 in 2008. China bought 73 tons of ivory from African countires, and attempted to legitimize the domestic carving industry by adding it to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The government encouraged more trade by raising the price of ivory. No wonder China's internal ivory trade controls have largely failed.

An established fact is that the illegal trade in ivory is closely linked to terrorist organizations and criminal syndicates. Pope Francis has earned a reputation as an environmentalist, but his own Vatican trinket store, Savelli Gallery, sells hundreds of objects made from ivory. The Vatican city-state has not signed the CITES treaty, so it is not subject to the global ivory ban. This has to change immediately. Pope Francis, US Person aka "the Lawyer from Hell", hopes you read this post and take appropriate action as you did at the Vatican's bank. Your city-state cannot afford to be in the same business as bombers and crime lords who heartlessly destroy one of God's most impressive creatures for gain.  After all, Holy Father, Jesus threw out the moneychangers in the temple.