Prince William calls for strong CITES move on ivory trade, despite UK's limp stance

2016-09-23 10:55 - Adam Cruise
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In a live satellite feed from London to invited audiences in Johannesburg and Toyko ahead of the major Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which opens on Saturday 24 September in Johannesburg, Prince William said that the world has a chance to make a stand and “that it is no longer acceptable to buy and sell ivory.”

'Unmistakable message to the world'

Speaking to invited audiences via satellite link in Johannesburg and Tokyo that included dignitaries such as CITES Secretary General, John Scanlon, British Environment Minister, Andrea Leadsom and Ex-Foreign Secretary for the UK, William Hague, Prince William said “the opportunity that CITES presents will not come around again for another 3 years, I sincerely hope the parties will be able to unite around this unmistakable message to the world.”

Battle lines have already been drawn between the 183-nation conference over the future of elephants. 29 African nations comprising of 70% of African range states calling themselves the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), along with Sri Lanka and supported by France and Luxembourg have submitted a proposal for a total ban on ivory at the conference, while three southern African countries, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the conference host country, South Africa, still want to open a legal trade in ivory. 

'Great Elephant Census reveals catastrophic decline' 

Prince William’s stance to stop the trade in ivory comes in the wake of a newly released and comprehensive data from the Great Elephant Census, which revealed a catastrophic decline in elephant numbers across Africa. This in turn was followed by a resolution earlier this month when the IUCN World Conservation Congress, at its meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, voted by approximately a 90 percent majority urging countries to close their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw or worked elephant ivory.

However, the United Kingdom Government does not seem to share the Prince’s commitment to saving elephants. Despite a statement on Thursday promising to implement stricter measures to regulate its own domestic market, the United Kingdom has stopped far short of following Prince William’s call to not buy and sell ivory.

Earlier this month, the country abstained from supporting a closure of domestic markets in Hawaii, one of the few not to support the measure, and has made no commitment to support the proposal for an Appendix I listing at the CoP, which will provide the highest standard of international protection and would prohibit all commercial ivory trade.

Dame Judith MacGregor, British High Commissioner to South Africa, said as ambassador she could not comment on her government’s policy but she did say “Prince William reflected that there is a general popular increase in concern and that’s certainly true about the UK and should rightly be bringing pressure on our politicians to respond.”

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