While I appreciate the reasons given for the proposed 20 year moratorium, I do not agree with the principle. Such a position would be against the tenet of the Convention that decisions are taken on the basis of the best scientific and trade data available at the time. In practice, no worthwhile purpose would be served, as a moratorium could be reconsidered and reversed at any subsequent Conference of Parties.
We will consider all the information available to us at the CITES Standing Committee meeting on 2 June. We will only support a decision to allow the one-off sales of stockpiled ivory, previously agreed in 2002, to go ahead if all criteria are fully met. This includes (a) the approval of trading partners, considered to have sufficient legislation and internal controls in place, and (b) the establishment of baseline data on elephant population numbers and poaching levels through the monitoring of illegal killing of elephants (MIKE) programme.
The UK will not support any further proposals for ivory trade until the impact of the stockpile sales, should they go ahead, has been assessed.
The CITES Secretariat has carried out several visits to Japan to ascertain its suitability as a recipient of stockpiled ivory to ensure that adequate controls are in place to avoid the ivory being re-exported.
At the 54th Standing Committee meeting in October 2006, the Secretariat considered that Japan fulfilled the conditions to become a trading partner. However, based on concerns felt by several countries, including the UK, it was agreed that the CITES Secretariat would provide an update on the measures Japan has and is putting in place. This will be reviewed at the 55th Committee meeting immediately prior to the Conference of the Parties in June.
The UK will consider that update carefully, and will only support trading nation status if we are sure that the necessary conditions have and continue to be met.
There is already much good work being done on elephant conservation outside of CITES and I fully support this. In particular, the UK Government are key contributors to the work of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) African Elephant Specialist Group. Attention often focuses on the ivory trade issue, which CITES is responsible for monitoring. However, there are broader issues that also need to be taken forward at a continent-wide level to address the range of threats to elephants, including habitat fragmentation and human/elephant conflict in Africa and Asia. The UK continues to take an interest in how the range of states tackle these issues.