On 27 August, 87 global governments voted at the final plenary of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), held in Geneva, to limit the controversial trade of wild-caught baby African elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana to zoos.
During the CITES conference, conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall issued a statement of concern to EU delegates who initially opposed the ban. Further, an open letter, signed by a host of celebraties, such as Ricky Gervais, Leona Lewis, Alesha Dixon, Dame Judi Dench, and Thandie Newton, called on the EU to not oppose the CITES ban on trade in wild-caught baby African elephants.
The ban was passed with amendments put forward by the EU, by a vote of 87 governments in favour, with 29 against, and 25 abstaining. The United States opposed the original and amended proposals.
Since 2012, Zimbabwe have controversially captured more than 100 live baby African elephants in the wild, and have exported them to zoos in China. Elephant scientists and conservationists argue that elephants are complex creatures who suffer both physically and psychologically as a result of captivity. Prior to the ban, African elephants in Zimbabwe and Botswana were legally captured and exported to so-called ‘appropriate and acceptable’ destinations based on the annotations to the Appendix II listing of their elephant populations.
The UK’s International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said, “I am appalled by the prospect of baby elephants being captured and sent off to foreign countries – and am thrilled this will now stop, thanks to UK leadership.”
For reference, the CITES World Wildlife Conference, held every 3 years, regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, their products and derivatives, to ensure their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES delegates from 183 countries make their final decisions at the closing plenary.
CITES Appendix II lists species that may not now be threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Appendix 1 lists species that are threatened with extinction, and trade in these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances). Costa Rica will host the next CITES conference in 2022. Other decisions form CITES 2019 can be accessed here.