By Adam Cruise
LONDON, UK, September 23, 2016 (ENS) – In a live satellite feed from London to invited audiences in Johannesburg and Toyko ahead of the major Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, which opens Saturday in Johannesburg, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, said that the world has a chance to make a stand and “that it is no longer acceptable to buy and sell ivory.”
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 three 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. Twenty-nine African nations comprising of 70 percent 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.
At the same time, three southern African countries – Zimbabwe, Namibia and the conference host country, South Africa – still want to open a legal trade in ivory.
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 was followed by a resolution earlier this month passed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, where delegates from 170 countries voted by a 90 percent majority to urge 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 yesterday 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.
The UK abstained from supporting the IUCN motion on a closure of domestic ivory markets, 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 that 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.”
— Article produced with the support of the South African nonprofit organization Conservation Action Trust.