“Tens of thousands elephants killed in 2011”

Although the latest figures have yet to be published, Secretary-General John Scanlon of CITES already reports the illegal killings of elephants in Africa is likely to run into tens of thousands in 2011. At the ongoing rate, according to Scanlon,  illegal activities are pushing the species to extinction.

The number of grey giants is declining at an alarming rate and the year 2011 could prove to be one of the worst poaching years in recent history. In the coming weeks the definite figures of illegal killings of elephants are expected to be published by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is already clear they will reveal a shocking reality.

The  latest analysis of  MIKE, the programme for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of  Elephants,  is currently being completed for the  62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in July, 2012. For the present, the following key findings that emerge from the analysis paint an apalling picture.

  • The currently escalating levels of illegal killing  across the entire African elephant range are of serious and increasing concern;
  • The number of elephants killed illegally in 2011 is  likely to run into the tens of thousands;
  • Poaching levels are now clearly increasing in all  African sub-regions.  The escalating levels of illegal killing are of serious and increasing concern;
  • The levels of illegal killing exceed what can be  sustained in all four African sub-regions in 2011, with elephant populations  now in net decline;
  • The Central African sub-region continues to display  the highest levels of elephant poaching;
  • The ongoing increase in levels of illegal killing of  elephants started in 2006, with 2011 displaying the highest levels of poaching  since MIKE records began; and
  • The rise in levels of illegal killing and the  dynamics surrounding it are worrying, not only for small and fragmented  elephant populations, but also for previously secure large populations.

The MIKE-results correlate with that of another data system, which is called ETIS. This Elephant Trade Information System is managed  for CITES by TRAFFIC to track illegal trade in ivory and other elephant specimens. The trend in large scale ivory seizures closely matches the poaching trend reported by MIKE and also shows signes of an alarming situation.


  •  Three of the five years in which the greatest  volumes of ivory were seized and reported to ETIS since  1989 occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011, with figures still being compiled for  2012;
  • Successive years of peak seizure volumes is not a  pattern previously observed in the ETIS data and it stands as a very worrying  indication that illegal trade in elephant ivory continues to surge in an  unabated manner;
  • There is value in using large-scale ivory seizures  as a proxy measure for assessing the involvement of organized crime in the  trade, with 2011 ending with more large-scale ivory seizures than any previous  year in the ETIS data;
  • The criminal syndicates behind these large movements  of ivory are believed to be highly adaptive and the emergence of new trade  routes in the ETIS data are likely to be evidence of evolving tactics;
  • Very few large-scale ivory seizures actually result  in successful follow-up law enforcement actions, including investigations,  arrests, convictions and the imposition of penalties that serve as deterrents;  and
  • Unregulated, or insufficiently regulated, domestic  ivory markets are enabling the laundering of elephant ivory from illegal  sources.

The  ETIS data suggests that demand is principally coming from Asia, with the main  destinations being China and Thailand, with East Africanports remaining the paramount exit point for illegal consignments of ivory.

The latest developments are of grave concern to CITES. “Last  year, we witnessed seriously escalating levels of illegal trade in elephant  ivory and in rhino horn, which is pushing these species towards  extinction.  Such trade is putting money  in the hands of criminals – including those involved in armed conflicts.  It is also depriving local people of  livelihoods in many instances, and robbing countries of their natural resources  and cultural heritage, as well as of potential revenue – not to mention the  costs associated with taking enforcement measures.  It must be stopped and elephant and rhino range States need further support to achieve this objective,” according to front man Scanlon.

He furthermore states there is a need for  collaboration and joint work at multiple levels, including:  among range, transit and consumer States;  among international entities involved in the fight against wildlife crime;  among States at the regional and sub-regional level; and among multiple  enforcement authorities at the national level.

CITES also indirectly advocates the world community should spend more money on wildlife crime. “In  light of the scale of wildlife crime and the risks to wildlife and people associated with this crime, the financial resources to tackle wildlife crime are clearly inadequate.”

More information on CITES: www.CITES.org




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