Kenya takes war on ivory trade to Geneva conference

Aug 18, 2019 | News

By The Star

Tourism CS Najib Balala has exuded confidence that Kenya will rally world leaders and conservationists to close ivory markets. Balala expressed optimism even as he led the Kenyan delegation to a high-level conference being held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Set to start today (Saturday) and run until August 29, the conference is being closely watched by conservationists as ‘key in saving iconic species from being wiped out’.

Kenya has been vocal that all ivory markets must be closed. The conference is crucial to the country as it will seal the fate of African elephants and other species. “All legal ivory markets – whether in Asia or Europe or anywhere else in the world – fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants,” Balala told the Star recently.

Already, countries opposed to Kenya’s bid to have the global trade of ivory banned were spoiling for a fight ahead of the conference.

On April 13, Balala said he will lobby to have a proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe for unrestricted trade in elephant ivory from the four elephant populations of the three countries, and South Africa shot down. The four have already made a proposal for an amendment removing restrictions.

This, the government argues will open doors to poaching.

Kenya already has the support of the African Elephant Coalition which is a consortium of 32 countries interested in making sure that there is a healthy and viable elephant population free of threats from the international ivory trade.

Kenya is keen to call for the closure of all ivory markets and the listing of all African elephants in Appendix I — in danger of extinction.

Trade-in specimens in Appendix I is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Elephants in East Africa are placed under Appendix I of CITES, giving them maximum protection. However, elephants in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed in Appendix II under CITES.

During the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and other endangered species on April 13, Balala said demand creates an incentive for poachers. “We must urge the few countries in Asia and Europe to appreciate that only elephants should wear ivory and rhino horn has no medicinal value,” Balala said.

Kenya has submitted a total of eight proposals including restrictions on giraffe products, pancake tortoise, among others. To be passed by the Conference of the Parties, a two-thirds majority vote is a requirement.

Kenya also wanted a total ban on giraffe products. The giraffe is not currently listed on the CITES Appendices and, therefore, no CITES trade data exist.Kenya also wanted the transfer of the pancake tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I. This was aimed at prohibiting trade in wild-collected specimens and restrict it to the captive-bred specimen.

The high-level conference was to be held from May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka but was postponed following terror attacks in the country on April 21.