To trade or not to trade : examining the impact of CoP17 on elephant ivory trade in South Africa.
MetadataShow full item record
Elephant ivory is a rare and sought after commodity that has been traded for centuries in many ancient civilisations. Over time, the growing demand for ivory led to sharp declines in African elephant populations. The devastating effects of the ivory trade therefore raised concerns amongst the international community. After much deliberation, the idea came about to create a convention that would regulate the wildlife trade, which included the ivory trade. In 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) came into force with the aim of ensuring that the international wildlife trade did not threaten the survival of certain endangered species in the wild. Every two to three years, Parties to CITES meet to review the Convention and discuss possible changes. These meetings are known as the Conference of the Parties (CoP’s). The CoP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. In terms of this Convention, species are listed in three different appendices depending on the level of threat to their extinction. Appendix I provides the highest level of protection by prohibiting all international trade in that species, whilst Appendices II and III allow some regulated trade depending on the severity of the threat of extinction. In 1976, the African elephant was afforded the protection of CITES and listed under Appendix II of the Convention. However, elephant populations continued to decline. The growing demand for ivory eventually peaked during the 1980s and led to a sharp rise in poaching activity which further diminished elephant populations. At the Conference of the Parties seventh meeting (CoP 7) in 1989, parties recognised the plight of the African elephant population and decided to list the African elephant under Appendix I of the Convention, thereby banning all international trade in ivory. This international ban is also commonly referred to as the “ivory trade ban.” However, there were a few pro-trade Parties with stable elephant populations such as Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa that did not agree with the Appendix I listing. Instead they petitioned CITES to list their elephant populations under Appendix II so that they would be able to conclude “one-off” ivory sales to CITES approved trading partners. These pro-trade Parties were successful in their petition and therefore have their elephant populations listed under Appendix II of the Convention. In addition, two “one-off” sales of ivory were approved by CITES which took place in 1999 and 2008. Since the above-mentioned one-off sales took place, pro-trade Parties have continued to petition CITES to conclude further one-off sales, at almost every CoP meeting to date. The rationale for concluding one-off sales was to raise funds for elephant conservation and for legally obtained ivory to flood the market, thereby removing the need or incentive to source ivory by illegal means. Pro-ban Parties, however, believed that the one-off sales of ivory had an adverse effect on elephant populations and that all trade in ivory should, therefore, be banned. The controversy relating to the African elephant at each CoP has been described as acrimonious, and has received much international publicity. The debate about the status of the African elephant at each conference illustrates the fact that the international community has differing perceptions regarding the conservation paradigm that should be adopted – ranging from advocates of “pure-protectionist” approaches on the one hand to supporters of “sustainable-use” approaches on the other hand. This dissertation analyses CITES effectiveness in regulating the ivory trade and preventing further elephant population declines. The study focuses specifically on the proposals that were submitted and the decisions made at the most recent CITES CoP 17 meeting in 2016, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. In addition, the study will also analyse the effect of decisions made at CoP 17, on the elephant ivory trade in South Africa.