With neighbouring country China’s name being approved for legal ivory trading by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), conservationists are worried that it will prompt poachers to launder in their illegal stocks, including that obtained from India.
Estimates show that 20,000 elephants are annually killed for illegal ivory trade. India is home to around 35,000 elephants. Figures have shown that in the last two decades 50 per cent of the country’s elephant population has been lost to poachers.
China is considered the world’s largest illegal market, with more than 90 per cent of illegal wildlife products from India reaching this market.
With this permission of ivory trading by CITES’ standing committee, which has found China "fit to become a trading partner" for 108 tonnes of elephant ivory put up for one-time sale from four African nations, conservationists world over fear that it will have a direct impact on Asian elephants.
Raising serious concern over this issue, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) vice-chairman Ashok Kumar said, "Studies on wildlife trade in Japan have indicated a niche demand for ivory from Asian elephants as compared to that from the African species. The sale, if approved, will just provide cover for illegal trade in African elephant ivory as well as the more preferred Asian elephant ivory. Moreover, China being made an importer will boost the thriving illegal trade posing more threats to the geographically nearer Asian elephants."
Leading conservation groups have claimed that though the ivory, which has to be traded, is legal and not obtained through poaching, its legal sale will only prompt poachers to launder in their illegal stocks as there are no scientific methods to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory. These groups have demanded that CITES should not give final nod to China for this trading.
The CITES decision came after many countries during the meeting raised concern on China being designated for this trading. "Allowing new ivory to be imported into China will stimulate demand and create loopholes for illegal ivory to be laundered into the legal market," International Fund for Animal Welfare programme director Peter Pueschel said, adding that even though the sale is monitored by CITES, there is no denying that it can lead to more poaching of African as well as Asian elephants.
By Ms.Bobby Aanand, Metropolitan Jury.