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Large-Scale Ivory Seizures in Africa Now Exceeding Those in Asia

  • Monday, June 16, 2014
  • Nairobi, Kenya
Elephants in East Africa

Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania accounted for 80 percent of large-scale ivory seizures, according to CITES report. Photo: Billy Dodson

More than 20,000 elephants were poached in Africa in 2013, but new report by international trade monitoring group suggests poaching is showing signs of leveling off, perhaps due to better law enforcement

For a second straight year, the number of elephants poached in Africa has decreased, according to a new report released on June 13 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The report estimates that 20,000 elephants were poached in 2013, compared to the 25,000 killed in 2011 and 22,000 killed in 2012, and suggests that elephant poaching may be leveling off—to a degree.

“This is good news that the figures are declining, but the rate of poaching is still far too high and unsustainable,” says African Wildlife Foundation’s senior director of conservation science, Dr. Philip Muruthi. “The loss of one of Kenya’s largest and most famous bull elephants to poachers this weekend is a stark reminder of this, and we must continue strengthening our efforts on the ground to ensure the figures continue their downward movement.”

Large-scale seizures have increased overall, with seizures in Africa exceeding those in Asia for the first time, possibly as a result of stepped-up law enforcement efforts in Africa, according to the report. Eighty percent of the seizures occurred in three countries: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“These large seizures in Africa mean less ivory is leaving our shores and ending up in storefronts or coffee tables in Asia,” says Muruthi. “This ivory was grown in Africa and it should stay in Africa.”

AWF has been working to strengthen law enforcement across sub-Saharan Africa to counteract the surge in poaching and wildlife trafficking. Since 2012, it has supported Kenya Wildlife Service’s Canine Detection Unit, which uses trained sniffer dogs to detect contraband ivory and other illegal wildlife products passing through the country’s airports and seaports. Equipment, training, and other support provided for rangers and scouts have led to the arrests of poachers, confiscation of illegal wildlife parts, and safer stomping grounds for elephants. AWF has additionally facilitated judicial luncheons and workshops to train lawyers and magistrates on the importance of prosecuting wildlife crimes and ensuring wildlife criminals feel the full brunt of the laws they are breaking.

“It is up to us as Africans—through increased law enforcement and tougher laws—to make this continent inhospitable for poachers and traffickers, which we are beginning to see happen in some countries,” notes Muruthi.

While the figures collected by CITES’ Monitoring Illegal Killing in Elephants (MIKE) and Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) programs reveal an increase in the number of elephants poached in countries such as the Central African Republic, other countries, such as Chad, show a decline in elephant poaching. Poverty, weak governance, and demand for ivory in Asia are cited as three main factors driving the elephant poaching in Africa.

The new CITES report can be read in full here: http://www.cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/com/sc/65/E-SC65-42-01.pdf    

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