Hopeful news for wild elephants at CITES conference


Photo: Faunagraphic

The World Wildlife Conference has taken an historic step towards ending the international trade in live, wild-caught elephants.

Yesterday, at the eighteenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18) in Geneva, delegates voted to ban the capture and trade of wild elephants destined for zoos and circuses around the world. 

“Elephants are intelligent, highly social animals with a complex system of communication, and the negative impact on individuals, families and social groups of the capture of wild elephants are well-documented by experts,” says Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals. “No captivity can provide elephants with the space they need, or with the kind of social stimulation and complexity that they experience in the wild.” 

The African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission has stated that it “does not endorse the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use”, believing there to be “no direct benefit for [their] in situ conservation”. In addition, at the Addis Ababa African Elephant Coalition Summit in June 2018, 30 African States confirmed that the only appropriate and acceptable destinations for live wild African elephants are in situ conservation programmes within their natural habitat.

However, young elephants continue to be removed from their home herds for export to zoos or circuses. Between 1990 and 2015, at least 1,774 live wild African elephants were captured and exported internationally, mostly to non-African States, destined for a life in captivity. Since 2012, China has imported more than 100 elephants from Zimbabwe. 

In Geneva yesterday, countries voted to limit the trade of live wild elephants only to conservation projects in their natural habitat. However, the vote still needs to be confirmed this week. If confirmed, this decision will put an end to the capture of baby and young elephants that are then destined to a life of suffering in captivity around the world. 

“We need the EU to support this ban,” Ilaria Di Silvestre concludes. “There is no conservation value in the capture and trade of live elephants out of their natural habitat: this is the opportunity to put an end to this cruel, unnecessary practice.”  

Ilaria Di Silvestre
Wildlife Programme Leader
Tel: +32 (0)2 740 08 24

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