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August 18, 2016

France bans ivory and rhino horn trade

Humane Society International/Europe applauds decisive action to end the cruel trade

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Jason Prince/iStockphoto

The French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal has signed a decree banning the trade in ivory and rhino horn in France and all overseas French territories. This follows an earlier French governmental move to suspend re-exports of elephant ivory. Humane Society International/Europe’s executive director Joanna Swabe issued the following statement

”We warmly salute the French Government for taking decisive action to halt the cruel trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. The demand for these wildlife products has led to a poaching epidemic that has not only decimated elephant and rhino populations across Africa and Asia, but also helps to fund organised crime and terrorism. We strongly applaud Minister Royal’s commitment to stamping out poaching and wildlife trafficking and urge other EU Member States to follow suit.”

The French action is particularly important since the measures adopted go far beyond the current EU wildlife trade regulations that permit the trade in ivory procured before 1947. The French decree includes provisions to ban the trade and commercial use of raw ivory, plus the production of artefacts using ivory, irrespective of its age. It also prohibits both the restoration and sale of ivory products bought after July 1975, even if they were purchased legally.   

The adoption of these new measures comes just a few weeks before the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meet in Johannesburg where the African Elephant Coalition, representing 70 percent of the African elephant range states, has put forward a proposal to list all African elephant populations under Appendix I, thereby prohibiting all international commercial trade in ivory. The Coalition has also tabled additional proposals calling for closure of domestic ivory markets and restricting the trade in live elephants to in situ conservation programmes only.

HSI/Europe has urged the European Commission and EU Member States to support the African Elephant Coalition’s proposals, but have thus far been met with surprising reticence.

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  • The EU is the world's largest exporter of pre-convention ivory— ivory acquired before the entry into force of CITES in 1975.
  • Between 2011 and 2014, member states reported seizures of around 4,500 ivory items reported as specimens and an additional 780 kg as reported by weight. Between 2003 and 2014, 92 percent of EU exports of pre-convention tusks went to China or Hong Kong.
  • The European Commission has voiced opposition to the African Elephant Coalition’s elephant protection proposals and relevant documents. The European Union has the largest voting block at the CITES Conference of Parties and holds the key to the success or the failure of these elephant protection documents. 
  • All five rhino species are threatened with extinction. In 2015, more than 1,300 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone, out of a remaining 28,000 left in the wild.
  • From 2010 to 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory. In Central Africa, between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of the forest elephants were killed. According to the Great Elephant Census, poachers killed half of Mozambique’s elephants in five years while Tanzania lost a catastrophic 60 percent of its elephants during the same period.
  • The majority of ivory trafficking is destined for China or Southeast Asia. However, once smuggled ivory leaves Africa, their trafficking routes could go through Europe or the Middle East to reach Asia. Germany, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates are among the numerous airports that have seized or intercepted smuggled ivory from Africa to Asia.

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, whiggins@hsi.org, +44 (0)7989 972 423

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