France, the first European country to destroy its illegal ivory stockpile – 3.4 tonnes in February 2014 – has, at the same time, become a hub for international trade in ivory. Through the intermediary of the Cannes Auction House, raw or carved elephant tusks from 42 elephants were put up for auction on March 8th and May 3rd 2014. Together they weigh 1.4 tonnes. If we believe the discourse of the Cannes Auction House director the French Riviera is populated by old expatriates who worked in Africa. They returned to France with their arms full and wish to increase their pensions and spend their days in tranquillity overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, far from the AK47 bullets harassing African elephants.
In March, 25 elephants from Kenya, Central African Republic, Gabon, South Africa, Cameroon, Liberia and Niger came under the auctioneer’s hammer, Mr Debussy. In May, at least 17 ‘African’ elephants took their turn. Sixteen ivory statues should also be added to the balance. The director of the auction house, recently self-proclaimed “elephant specialists”, is celebrating and talks of a world record for private sales. The price reached 1000 Euros per kilo, motivation to resurface pseudo old ivory and entice supply, demand and in turn poaching.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), European Regulations and French Law authorise the international trade of African elephant ivory imported before 1976. In these cases, the sale is subject to the issue of a certificate from the Ministry of Environment through its deconcentrated services. It should be noted that the information provided for the second auction were downgraded compared to the first. Certificate numbers, country of origin and the sellers were not specified.
The French State feeds international ivory trade by issuing certificates without thinking. Unless these certificates are falsified. During the last Committee meeting on trade in wild flora and fauna in Brussels, February 2014, the member States of the European Union were urged to verify the authenticity of French certificates due to very good falsifications in circulation. The false certificates enable the laundering of illegal ivory from poached elephants.
The French Riviera should not become a supermarket for ivory and the meeting place for dealers and enthusiasts from across the globe. Robin des Bois is calling on the Ministry of the Environment and on State services to ensure that all documents guaranteeing the importation of ivory to Europe before 1976 be examined with great precaution. In sum, Robin des Bois is asking the Ministry of the Environment to launch an investigation on the subject of fraudulent French certificates in circulation.