Only elephants should wear ivory, says Balala

Wages war on proposals by four African countries to allow relaxed ivory trade

In Summary

• Kenya says it has turned around the elephant and rhino poaching crisis between 2011 and 2015

• Will call for closure of all ivory markets, list all elephants as endangered

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala
'ONLY ELEPHANTS SHOULD WEAR IVORY': Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala

The Kenyan government has warned four African countries against trying to relax laws protecting the iconic species.

On Saturday, Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala said 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, will be shot down. 

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from May 23 to June 3, and Kenya has started lobbying. 

The CS commented during Global March For Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and Other Endangered Species.

"Demand creates an incentive for poachers. Therefore, 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," the CS said. 

During Cites Conference Kenya call for the closure of all ivory markets and listing all African elephants in Appendix I — in danger of extinction.

Elephants in the four countries are listed in Appendix II under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

Cites lists species according to the degree of protection they need.

Appendix II is not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to ensure their survival. Appendix I is endangered, Appendix III contains species protected in at least one country that has asked other Cites parties for assistance.

Balala said strategies to conserve iconic species from 2012 to 2015 have succeeded. 

Over 4,000 people joined the march with conservation partners and the government to champion wildlife protection. It is an annual worldwide event.

Balala said Kenya has turned around the elephant and rhino poaching crisis between 2011 and 2015.

For example, 38 elephants killed by poachers last year, compared to 84 in 2012. 

Four rhinos were poached last year compared to 59 in 2013.

However, some of these efforts risk being watered down by international trade.

"The scale of poaching and wildlife trafficking in Africa reflects increased demand for ivory, rhino horn and other endangered wildlife products," he said.

Balala said the illegal activity was being engineered by international criminals whose role is akin to that of drug traffickers. 

The CS said Kenya also plans to reject Zambia's proposal for transfer of their elephant population from Appendix I to II to allow trade in ivory and other elephant specimens. 

A proposal by Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to be allowed to trade in rhino horn harvested from its population will also be opposed.

Balala said Namibia's proposal to transfer its population of southern white rhino from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow trade of the species will also be rejected. 

"Kenya’s message is simple — it is not possible to satisfy the international demand for ivory, rhino horn and other endangered wildlife products," Balala said.

He said the western black rhino and the Sumatran rhino have recently gone extinct due to poaching, and the northern white rhino faces extinction in our lifetime.

Balala said the war on poaching can only be won through concerted efforts to stop the demand for ivory and rhino horns, as well as products from other endangered species, in international markets. 

Kenya will also call for the listing of giraffes to Appendix II. 

Balala praised countries that have already closed their domestic wildlife trade markets like China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

He asked the remaining countries to follow suit to ensure trade of wildlife products within their borders is suppressed. 

(Edited by R. Wamochie)