When Botswana announced they changed their stance on the elephants at CoP17 and supported the ending of the ivory trade yesterday, the room broke out into thundering applause. In this moment, it was as clear as day how easily countries, and people, can change their hearts and minds because they start to care.
Contrary to what various ministers have said, selling ivory is not a conservation tool. Elephants are not commodities. Having healthy populations of an animal does not mean that it is okay to support their deaths to fuel trade. As we all know, once ivory hits the market, the market is stimulated, the trade is stimulated, poaching is triggered. We need only look back on historical figures to show this. Yet governments who are sitting on millions of dollars of ivory stockpiles will hear what they only want to hear.
The EU voting bloc has literally blocked any chance of having African Elephants listed on Appendix I over the next few years, worldwide, because not all elephants meet the scientific criteria and rules to be eligible for such an appendix. To the governments who oppose the Appendix I classification: this is where you needed to break the rules. Their words have now significantly contributed to the deaths of thousands of elephants all over Africa. May they come to realise soon enough the blood that they will have on their hands.
An Appendix I classification would have been significant, but it was never the panacea. Individual governments can still give the elephant the highest protections and commit to all the plans and measures to eliminate the trade in their own countries. The resolution to ban all domestic ivory trade still stands.
Amidst the ruckus, the general sentiment across the world remains the same: the world needs to protect these innocent creatures.