CITES Secretary-General's remarks on the destruction of confiscated elephant ivory at Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

14 April 2016

 

Hon. Dato Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi bin Tuanku Jaafar, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia
Hon. Dato’ Sri Azizan Ahmad, Secretary General, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

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I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for inviting me to witness the destruction of 9.55 tonnes of confiscated African elephant ivory today.

Over the past 24 months we have seen countries in Africa, East, South East and South Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated.

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At the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES held in Bangkok in March 2013 (CoP16), CITES Parties spoke with one voice on the need to take decisive actions to stop the alarming trends in poaching and smuggling, especially as it affects the African elephant.

These decisions have since been carried forward by CITES Parties, the CITES Standing Committee, and many others with a sense of urgency and there is now a global collective effort underway to combat illegal trade in wildlife.

Today’s important event serves to raise local, national and global awareness about the devastating impacts of illegal trade in elephant ivory and of the unwavering determination of Malaysia and the global community to put an end to it.

Today’s event comes just eight months after the first dedicated UN General Assembly resolution on ‘Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife’ was adopted by UN Member States and six months since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include two specific targets on tackling illegal trade in wildlife.

The international community has recognized that illicit trafficking in wildlife is not only having a devastating impact on the African elephant and other affected wild animals and plants, but it also poses a threat to people and their livelihoods – as well as national economies and in some cases national and regional security.

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Distinguished guests, the destruction of confiscated elephant ivory in Malaysia today will not in itself put an end to the illegal trade in elephant ivory.

It is, however, ensuring that no one will ever profit from this contraband and, when coupled with the seizure of ivory and the prosecution and conviction of offenders, it sends a very powerful message that Malaysia does not and will not tolerate this illegal trade, and that illegal traders now face significant risks along the entire illegal supply chain – in source, transit and destination States.

Today’s event also provides a very public opportunity to warn those people who trade illegally in elephant ivory that the age and origin of their contraband can now be readily identified through the use of modern forensics making prosecution and conviction much more likely.

Trading in illegal ivory is shifting from low risk, high profit to high risk, low profit and today’s event sends a clear signal that illegally traded elephant ivory will not have any future commercial value.

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Distinguished guests, what was recognized by all of the Parties to CITES when they last met in Bangkok in 2013 is even more relevant today: reversing the disturbing trends in elephant poaching and ivory smuggling requires a sustained and collective international effort across the entire illegal supply chain that addresses both demand and supply.

Today’s event will serve to raise further public awareness about the devastating impacts of illegal trade in elephant ivory and other forms of illicit wildlife trafficking and the significant efforts being taken to combat it.

We most sincerely  appreciate the clear determination of Malaysia to put an end to elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, as well as other serious wildlife crimes, through today’s high profile public event.

Thank you.

 

Note for readers:

The guidance provided by CITES Resolutions is that the illegally traded and confiscated elephant ivory should be restricted to four uses only, namely, ‘bona fide scientific, educational, enforcement or identification purposes’. Where this is not practicable, two options are provided by the Resolution, namely to save the specimens in storage or to destroy them.

The Secretary-General does not encourage or discourage countries (as States Parties to CITES) to choose one option or the other. This is a matter for each country to determine for itself.

However, when a country, such as Malaysia, takes a decision to publicly destroy its confiscated stockpiles of elephant ivory, the Secretary-General regards it as presenting a unique opportunity to draw public attention to the scale, nature and impacts of the serious crimes that lie behind these confiscations and to act as a deterrent to illegal trade.

The recognition of wildlife crime as a serious crime gained further momentum thought the recently adopted Doha Declaration at the 2015 UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and through the adoption of the first UN General Assembly resolution on Tackling illicit wildlife trafficking.

Over the past 24 months we have seen Belgium, Chad, China, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Hong Kong SAR China, Kenya, Mozambique, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America, destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated.

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