Zambia, one of the strongest opponents of ivory trade in
southern Africa, is about to turn its back on elephants. In
1992, Zambia publicly burned its entire ivory stockpile, 9
tonnes (a tonne is a metric ton), as a gesture of support for
the ivory trade ban. But now, so that it can sell its
17-tonne stockpile of ivory on the international market, the
Zambian government plans to ask the Parties to the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to downgrade the protections
given Zambian elephants. At the November CITES meeting,
Zambia will propose that its elephant population be
downlisted from Appendix I, the category of species that
may not be traded internationally, to Appendix II, the
category of species whose international trade is legal but
"regulated." Elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa,
and Zimbabwe have already been downlisted to Appendix II.
An Uncontrollable Trade
There is no such thing as a regulated trade in ivory–a fact
brought home by CITES' disastrous attempt to control a
legal ivory trade in the 1980s. The result: massive elephant
poaching. Between 1979 and 1989, the number of African
elephants in the wild decreased from 1.2 million to 600,000.
After the international ivory trade was finally banned in
1989, elephant poaching decreased dramatically.
The Thin Edge of the Wedge
Despite the success of the ivory trade ban, in 1997 the
Parties to CITES decided to allow Botswana, Namibia, and
Zimbabwe to sell their stockpiled ivory to Japan on a
one-time "experimental basis," a decision that precipitated
the wiping out of thousands of elephants, including hundreds
in Zambia, so that their ivory could be sold illegally. Asian
elephants were affected too. Between 1988 and 2000, Asian
elephant populations were slashed by over 80% in
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Today there are an estimated
519,461 wild elephants in Africa and approximately 30,000
elephants in Asia.
The Asian Market Flourishes
There is no reason to believe that CITES is any more
capable of controlling the international trade in ivory today
than it was in the 1980s. The ivory markets of Japan,
southeast Asia, and China are flourishing. A recent report on
the ivory trade in Asia revealed that tens of thousands of
ivory objects are offered for sale to tourists in shops
throughout east and southeast Asia, mainly to European and
American tourists. These objects are made from the ivory of
both Asian and African elephants.
Worth More Alive Than Dead
As long as people are buying ivory, elephants will be illegally
killed. Zambia must be urged to continue to protect its
elephants rather than sacrifice them to the international
ivory trade. This protection will, in the long run, be more
profitable for the nation: An elephant who is killed for ivory
can bring in money but once; but a live elephant brings in
tourist dollars over and over. Zambia need only look to
Kenya for proof of how profitable tourism can be; in 1989,
Kenya's elephants were estimated to be worth US$25 million
in tourist dollars per year.
How You Can Help
- Sign the petition, which will be sent to the Zambian
President. You can find the petition here.
- Send a letter or fax to the Zambian High Commission or
Embassy nearest you. Please address your letter or fax to
the Tourism Section. Politely ask the Zambian government
not to submit a proposal to downlist elephants at the next
CITES meeting. Say that as a potential tourist you'd rather
see live elephants in Zambia than ivory trinkets in Tokyo.
If you live in the United States, you can send your letters
The Embassy of the Republic of Zambia
2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
If you live in the United Kingdom, send your letters to:
The Zambia High Commission
2 Palace Gate
London, W8 5NG
Fax: +44 207 581 1353
- Send an e-mail.
If you live in the United Kingdom, you can e-mail the High
Commissioner (addressed as "Your Excellency"), Mr. S. K.
Mubukwanu, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also copy
your e-mail to the Zambian Tourist Board at Zntb@aol.com.
If you live outside the United Kingdom, you can go to the
Zambian High Commission-UK's web page and click on the
guest book. From there you can send a message to Zambia,
no matter where you live.
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