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Governments take ivory smugglers more seriously

African nations, where poaching elephants and smuggling ivory is common, agreed on urgent measures to halt the illegal trade and secure the survival of African elephants.

New data released this week shows that if poaching continues Africa is likely to lose one-fifth of its elephants in the next 10 years.

Government agreed to apply “a zero tolerance approach,” and sentence those convicted to “maximum, and therefore deterrent” penalties to combat an upsurge in poaching and smuggling of elephant ivory since 2009.

They will use a combination of existing laws and strengthened regulatory frameworks for investigation, arrest, seizure and prosecution of suspected wildlife criminals. Laws covering wildlife, corruption, money laundering, organised crime, firearms, employment and terrorism may be employed for this purpose, governments agreed.

The agreement was reached at the ongoing African Elephant Summit convened by the government of Botswana and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN. The summit is the first meeting focussing on the dynamics of the entire ivory value chain.

“With an estimated 22,000 African elephants illegally killed in 2012, we continue to face a critical situation. Current elephant poaching in Africa remains far too high, and could soon lead to local extinctions if the present killing rates continue. The situation is particularly acute in Central Africa, where the estimated poaching rate is twice the continental average,” said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

The measures were agreed by African states including Botswana, Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia, and some states in Asia including Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, China and Thailand.

Botswana has the largest elephant population on the African continent.
President of Botswana, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama said: “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species.”

The African Elephant Summit was organized with the financial support of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the German Government, the US Agency for International Development, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

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