On 27 August at the eighteenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18) in Geneva, delegates confirmed to ban the capture and trade of wild elephants destined for zoos and circuses around the world.
A preliminary vote on this issue happened towards the beginning of the conference last week on 18 August, when the European Union and the United States both spoke against the ban to end the export of wild-caught elephants for captive use. However, while the USA voted against, the EU could not vote at all, since a number of EU Member States had not yet completed their accreditation when the vote was taken. Nevertheless, the preliminary vote passed in committee and then needed to be confirmed by the delegates in plenary session.
To ensure that this ban would make it across the finish line, more than 37 celebrities spoke out in support of the proposal and a coalition of NGOs signed a letter calling on EU decision makers to support the ban and stop the live trade of young and baby elephants.
On 27 August the final vote and plenary session took place and the European Union eventually changed its position and proposed an amended text to clarify that trade on live wild elephants outside Africa should be allowed only in exceptional or emergency circumstances where it will significantly contribute to the conservation of the species. The new amended text proposed by the EU was then voted and adopted, with the support of 75% of the voting countries.
“Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the end of the cruel capture and export of wild African elephants from certain southern African countries to zoos and other captive facilities,” says Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals. “We congratulate the EU and its Member States for their constructive work to find a solution to the suffering of the elephants and to respect the will of the majority of African States.”
The African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission has stated that it “does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use”, believing there to be “no direct benefit for [their] in situ conservation”. During the past decades, captures have involved deliberately separating young elephants from their family members, resulting in injuries, psychological trauma and sometimes death for the captured animals, and leaving the remaining family groups fragmented and disrupted.
“By adopting this ban today countries all around the world have shown that animal welfare legitimately justifies severely restricting trade and it can take precedence over economic interests,” Ilaria Di Silvestre concludes. “We trust that this will be taken into consideration in future decisions that CITES and the EU make.”
Ilaria Di Silvestre
Wildlife Programme Leader, Eurogroup for Animals
+32 02 740 08 20