Defenders Urges Babbitt and CITES Committee to Oppose the Illegal Killing of Elephants

(02/08/1999) - Defenders of Wildlife expressed its opposition to a reopening of trade in African elephant ivory in a letter sent today to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. The Standing Committee for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) is meeting in Geneva from February 8 - 12 to decide this issue.

"We are concerned that the CITES committee is rushing to allow ivory trade before safeguards are in place to ensure that it will not result in the illegal trading of ivory and killing of elephants," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife.

During the 1997 Conference of the Parties to CITES, delegates approved a plan to allow three countries -- Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana -- to sell their ivory stocks to Japan. The delegates agreed that certain criteria, including a system to monitor illegal elephant kills and ivory trade, must be in place before the sale can occur. This system, MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants), is not yet up and running, and many express doubts whether it will be able to perform as required once in effect.

"It is clear that the criteria required by CITES for a resumption of ivory trade have not been met," said Bill Snape, Legal Director of Defenders of Wildlife. "No trade should be approved unless clear evidence is presented that shows every requirement is thoroughly satisfied."

Defenders also urged the Secretary to investigate and report to Congress and the public on a series of funding questions, closed door operations, and other irregularities that may be driving the international treaty committee to approve the ill-advised ivory trade.

"We call on Secretary Babbitt not only to oppose resumption of the ivory trade at this time but also to call for an open CITES decision-making and budget process," said Schlickeisen.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270