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Attempts to reopen international ivory trade fails


23 Aug 2019


Climate & Environment

(Geneva, Switzerland – 22 August 2019) – Attempts by Southern African elephant range states at CITES today to resume international sales of ivory stockpiles were rejected by governments at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  

On day six of the forum in Geneva, Switzerland, Zambia abandoned its bid to sell its ivory stockpiles as part of a proposal to downlist its elephants to Appendix II, opting instead to only seek permission to export other elephant products, which failed. A proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell stockpiled ivory from their countries and South Africa also failed when voted on by attending delegates from the 183 country strong forum.

Matt Collis, IFAW’s Director of International Policy, and head of IFAW’s delegation at CITES, said: “IFAW welcomes this outcome. Any legal market in ivory presents opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory. We have yet to see any evidence that legal ivory trade is being adequately controlled to prevent this happening. Parties need to focus on the closure of domestic markets and markedly increase their law enforcement efforts to prevent illegal trade.

“Poaching skyrocketed across Africa after the last ivory stockpile sales back in 2008. IFAW is delighted governments at CITES have chosen to reject repeating that failed experiment.”

Elephants are in crisis with at least 20,000 being illegally killed each year for their ivory. On average around 55 elephants are poached every day in Africa; that's roughly one every 26 minutes. Recent analysis appears to show a clear correlation between the 2008 ivory stockpile sales and an increase in illegal trade and poaching – there has been an estimated increase of 71% in ivory smuggling out of Africa following the 2008 stockpile sales.

The proposal by Zambia to downlist its elephants to Appendix II was rejected by 102 votes against, with 22 votes of support and 13 abstentions. The proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe was rejected by 101 votes, with 23 in support and 18 abstentions.

An attempt to uplist the elephants from the four African range states currently on Appendix II of CITES (from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) also failed with 67 votes against, 51 votes in favour and 22 abstentions.

IFAW works in more than 40 countries, to rescue and protect animals and their habitats, for a world where animals and people can thrive together. A team of IFAW experts will be attending CITES CoP18 and are available for interview throughout.


For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW experts please contact Clare Sterling on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717, email, or Christina Pretorius on mobile +41 779 114253 or +27 (0) 82 330 2558, email Skype interviews can be arranged on request.

CITES information and documents are available here:

IFAW is tweeting updates from the proceedings via various accounts including @Action4IFAW and @IFAWUK

Images and footage are available for media use

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at