In a joint letter, 37 Non-Governmental Organizations from Europe, Africa, America and Asia are asking the Minister of Ecology to stop the sale and exports in and from France of raw and cut ivory (letter available online ). If France decides to take these two measures, this will participate in stopping elephant poaching, contraband and speculation on ivory.
The quantity of smuggled ivory is 3 time higher than in 1998. In Asia and particularly in China, demand from middle and upper classes is increasing. An endless demand.
In Africa and in Asia, 35,000 to 40,000 elephants are poached each year. The elephant population in Africa has gone down by 70% between 1985 and 2010. The elephant’s reproduction cycle is particularly long. Gestation lasts 21 to 23 months. Less some rare exceptions, it is followed by a single birth. The baby will then nurse for at least 3 years. Time periods between 2 births go from 4 to 10 years. The elephants poached are more and more young. The future of the species is threatened within short term. Some are betting on their disappearance and speculate on ivory as some would speculate on gold or diamonds.
Europe and France have their share of responsibility in the increase of trafficking. Selling of “post-colonial” ivory is more and more frequent in auction rooms and on the Internet. The elephant tusks are described as pre-convention and supposed to have been bought before 1976 and application of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). Authenticity of the original documents is subject to questioning.
Illegal ivory trafficking is mainly controlled by criminal networks using corruption, violence and fake or deterred documents. The “legal” French ivory trade takes place in this context. In France, the DREAL (Directions Régionales de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement) are competent to deliver intra-European Union certificates authorizing ivory sales but agents from the DREAL have more urgent missions than to verify authenticity of family documents and archives proving the ivory was bought truthfully before 1976; there is a risk that ivory taken from poached animals be in this way legalized. Certificates delivered by French authorities for legal tusks can be deterred and used to sell illegal tusks. Concern has already been expressed regarding use of fake French certificates.
France and Europe can no longer take the risk of supplying trade in supposedly legal ivory that once on the Asian sale houses facilitate selling of illegal ivory and consequently lead to an increase in ivory poaching.