Let’s be clear- even if an endangered classification was given to the African Elephant tomorrow, it won’t make a meaningful difference unless individual countries do something concrete about it.
So what will it do? The status will prohibit countries from selling their ivory to another country. It will guide cabinets about what they should be aiming towards. We must also remember however that countries are sovereign and can still do what they wish if they lodge their reservations with CITES.
So what is needed? Statuses and trade bans need to backed by political will and commitment from governments. Policy changes, strengthening governance, addressing corruption, improving law enforcement, community and education initiatives all form part of a more holistic measure to eradicate the trade. Sharing intelligence to tackle the black market, improved partnerships between and across all international conservation organisations are also equally important. Efforts to eliminate demand from Asia must also continue.
As thousands in capital cities around the world marched to promote awareness of the rhinos and elephants today, President Zuma of South Africa opens up the first day of the 17th Conference of Parties- arguably the most critical conference that will determine their fate. There needs to be a 2/3 majority vote for a species to be classified into an Appendix. If the recent motion by IUCN to call on governments to shut down domestic ivory sales is anything to go by, then hopefully the majority will vote in favour of giving elephants the highest protection.
I am hopeful, firstly because of the sentiment that has come from the IUCN. Secondly, because I have trust that most of the world knows how wrong this is.