Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Mr Najib Balala currently on a tour of Europe met with a delegation from the European Union (EU) in Belgian capital of Brussels where he pitched for Kenya's stand to end trade in ivory.
Balala who met with Mr Jryki Katainen, Vice President of the Europe Commission said that all legal ivory markets – whether in Asia or Europe - fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants.
He urged nations in Europe which is one of the world’s largest ivory traders, to close its domestic markets, as Environment Ministers meet
''On behalf of the 32-member state African Elephant Coalition (AEC), Najib Balala, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Tourism & Wildlife and co-chair of the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), I am urging European Union, as one of the world’s largest traders in ivory, to take immediate action to close its domestic markets,'' he said.
The context for the CS’s visit to Brussels was to meet senior EU Commission and member state officials in advance of the Environment Council meeting on March 5th, 2019 to call for closure of Europe’s domestic ivory markets.
Member states are formulating the EU position on ivory trade-in advance of the 18th Conference of the Parties of CITES, the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CoP18), to take place in Sri Lanka, May 23 – June 3, 2019.
During the meeting with Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission, Balala reiterated Kenyan resolve to have EU to end its ivory trade and close its domestic market now.
He also met the Japanese Ambassador to the EU to communicate the concerns of the Coalition and to discuss how legal ivory markets in the EU and Japan fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants in Africa.
''Elephants are declining significantly throughout Africa and Asia. Every year, at least 20,000 African elephants are killed illegally for their ivory and only bold action now can save this iconic animal from becoming extinct in many parts of its range within the decade,'' Balala said.
World Ministers are meeting in Brussels to close its domestic ivory markets and follow the lead of China, US, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong SAR, who have taken or are taking steps to close their domestic ivory markets.
Balala said that during the last decade approximately 144,000 elephants were killed across Africa due to poaching.
He expressed his optimism that his visit to Brussels will finally persuade the EU to close its domestic ivory markets.
“To assume - as many EU Member states do - that there is no link between domestic ivorymarkets in Europe and Asia and illegal trade, and killing of elephants in Africa is a flawed basis on which to develop EU conservation policy,'' Balala added.
Most other countries with significant legal markets have realised that there is a clear link between their domestic ivory markets, illegal trade and poaching and have closed them down. We call on the EU and Japan to follow suit,” he said.
Balala added that legal markets can serve as a cover for laundering ivory from poached elephants into trade, including within the EU.
Allowing the sale of ivory reinforces its social acceptability and makes it a desirable product to own or even invest in, further fuelling the illegal market and stimulating transnational wildlife crime. Ivory trafficking exacerbates conflict, corruption and poverty, and weakens local and national security and governance.
A number of EU member states have banned/are banning ivory trade including France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK, which in December 2018 adopted one of the toughest set of ivory trade restrictions in the world.
“While we appreciate the measures taken by the EU and its member states so far, we consider it essential to take further action to close the internal market and external trade in worked ivory. Otherwise it will present a continuing threat to our elephants,” added Balala.