The Commission guidance document recommends that, as of 1 July 2017, EU member states stop issuing export documents for raw ivory unless for scientific and educational purposes. Although the guidance document is not legally binding, Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the Commission’s important step forward in fighting international ivory trafficking and reversing the alarming decline in elephant populations throughout Africa. We also applaud the Commission’s commitment to grant new financial support of 2.25 million EUR to the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help with the implementation of the decisions on international wildlife trade agreed at the CITES Conference of Parties in October 2016.
However, the measures requested by the new Guidance only target the trade in raw ivory, while the EU urgently needs to implement a comprehensive, legally binding ban on all ivory exports and domestic sales, including antique worked ivory.
The illegal killing of African elephants has doubled over the past decade, and the quantity of ivory seized has tripled. Based on survey results, one third of savannah elephants have been poached for their ivory within the past eight years. In spite of public perception that an international ban on commercial ivory trade exists, EU existing regulations permit the sale of antique or so-called pre-Convention ivory that was acquired before elephants were included on the CITES appendices. There is evidence, however, that new, illegal ivory is being laundered into trade using this exemption. Particularly, since the end of 2015, an unprecedented number of large seizures were made in the EU.
The adoption of the Guidance was foreseen in the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, adopted in 2016. The Commission will now consult with stakeholders and the public and collect data to evaluate if restrictions on worked ivory are also necessary. Meanwhile, the Commission released a guidance document on the definition of “worked specimens”.
Eurogroup for Animals will continue to work with its members and in coalition with other international NGOs to urge the Commission to adopt a comprehensive, legally binding ban on all ivory exports and domestic sales, including antique worked ivory.