Kenya has announced a fresh campaign to fight ivory trade as the world prepares for the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting of the Conference of Parties to be held in Switzerland later this month.
The campaign, dubbed “Rip-Off," aims to bring attention to efforts by Kenya and other like-minded countries to stop international ivory trade and to raise awareness about declining elephant populations across the continent.
“The threat of ivory trade needs to be ended and the time to do it is now. Any attempts to re-open it must be opposed strongly,” said Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at the campaign launch on July 31, 2019.
She added that there is a negative dip in the see-saw on African elephant populations that manifests any time a decision is taken by CITES Parties to open ivory trade, which is why the country is in full support of the ban in all trade in elephant ivory.
Several Southern African countries have petitioned CITES to re-open the ivory trade in order to find a legal market for their ivory stockpiles, raising alarm among the conservation community who argue that any legal trade will only embolden black market sellers and expand illegal wildlife trade.
Kenya, on the other hand, has proposed that all African elephant populations be listed in Appendix I at CITES, which strictly prohibits trade and offers the highest protection.
Also speaking at the campaign launch, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said that the country will continue to champion anti-ivory trade on the continent and beyond. The Kenyan government has partnered with Kenya Airways and the Kenya Airport Authority to reach countries like Japan and others in Asia to compel them to close their ivory markets.
“The members in the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) are committed to continued championing of this position in CITES meeting until the African elephant is secure across its range,” he said.
The AEC is a consortium of 32 member states who are invested in ensuring that the African elephant is free from threats brought about by international ivory trade as well as in using techniques that promote non-destructive use of elephants through tourism for the benefit of local communities.
The decisions that will be passed during the convention in Geneva will have an immediate effect on the legislation, regulation, and operating practices worldwide on international trade in species listed on the CITES Appendices.
CITES is an international agreement between governments and its main aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not drive them to extinction.
“The Kenyan government's awareness campaign is reconfirmation to the world one more time that trade on endangered species like the elephant is not an option because Kenya relies on tourism and the backbone of tourism is wildlife. Among the key species of wildlife is the elephant, whose numbers have dwindled greatly due to poaching,” said Fiesta Warinwa, Director of Policy at African Wildlife Foundation, who attended the launch.
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