Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Golden opportunity to end the illegal ivory trade wasted

serious-about-willdife-crime-picI was honoured to be part of the European Parliament’s observer delegation to the CITES CoP17 in South Africa. As a campaigner for wildlife protection I know the opportunity to influence protection at the highest level is rare.

Before I headed to South Africa I voted in favour of a European Parliament resolution calling for all elephants to be listed on Appendix 1 of CITES (the Convention in Trade of Endangered Species) This would mean in effect a total ban on the international trade in elephants.

The resolution was overwhelmingly supported by MEPs which shows the European Parliament’s strong opposition to the trade in elephants and their ivory which in the past decade alone has seen the loss of 110,000 African elephants as a result of poaching and the massive global demand for ivory tusks as well as for trophy hunting.

Unfortunately the official European Commission delegation voted against the listing of elephants on Appendix I as instructed to by the Council of European Environment ministers, effectively ignoring the wishes of the European Parliament and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who signed an online petition calling for a total ban.

With that said the EU has a defacto ban in place on ivory until 2017 and has said it publicly opposes the international ivory trade. But a total Appendix 1 (the highest protection offered by CITES) ban would have sent a strong message that countries have to stop selling elephant trophies and ivory immediately to allow elephant populations time to recover.

It is doubly saddening as the request was put forward by many of the African elephant range states from West and Central Africa as well as Kenya, so our snub to their request will send a message that yet again Europe ‘knows best’ in how to manage their resources.

When I garnered the support of these countries at the African, Caribbean and Pacific joint parliamentary meeting to issue a declaration in for the protection of elephants in 2014 I thought we were making good progress, but a golden opportunity to end the illegal ivory trade for good has been wasted this week.

But I will not stop fighting to protect these most vulnerable animals. We must stop profiteering criminal groups needlessly poaching and trafficking elephant parts and hunters shooting them for the pleasure of a photograph. They are some our planet’s most precious creatures and we should all be dismayed at the prospect of living on a planet where they no longer roam.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Has the official European Commission delegation issued a statement as to why they ignored the instructions of the Council of European Environment ministers and did different?

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Oct '16 - 5:33pm

    It is tragic that the official European Commission delegation to CITES could not vote to grant the maximum protection of Appendix One for African Elephants and Rhinos.

    When they must know that the levels of poaching for ivory is at a record high, putting the survival of the Elephant in the wild in real jeopardy, one has to wonder at the powerful forces in the ivory trade and hunting lobby, who are prepared to destroy these great creatures in order to make a profit, and wonder at those who listen to their thin arguments for the status quo.

    Thanks to Catherine Bearder MEP for all she is doing on safeguarding wildlife in Africa, and still the fight goes on.

  • John Barrett 7th Oct '16 - 11:16am

    Having just returned from Zambia and seen these amazing creatures in their natural habitat and witnessed the savage impact poaching is having in many African countries where is now carried out on an industrial scale in some areas. The anti-poaching teams are often up against heavily armed poachers supported by helicopters who can remove the ivory and avoid all checkpoints and border patrols.

    It is all the more outrageous that the European Commissio0n Delegation should act in the way it did.

    Is it any wonder that many of the hundreds of thousands of people who supported that ban which was supported by the MEPs, will feel that it is an organisation that is not worth being a part of.

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