Fiona Gordon 10th April 2019
The Chief Executive Officer of the African Wildlife Foundation, Kaddu Sebunya, has called out New Zealand for maintaining its domestic ivory trade. And it’s an utterly fair call. Put simply, Africa’s elephant population remains under grave threat from the continued international demand for ivory and New Zealand can rightly be asked to clean up its act.
“There is no [ivory] consumption on the continent [Africa],” says Sebunya, “so New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America need to take on this responsibility. The internationalization of issues means that we must all make choices to protect Africa’s wildlife.”
To date the New Zealand government has chosen to do very little, aside from officially voting in support of the closure of all domestic ivory markets at a meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2016.
But we haven’t “walked the talk”. Our domestic ivory market remains completely unregulated, leaving us wide open to unscrupulous traders who launder illegally imported ivory under the guise of legality. Not merely a possibility, this scenario was evidenced in 2015 with the second conviction of a New Zealander for illegal trading in ivory.
Sebunya notes that in New Zealand, “carved ivory fetches high prices at auction houses and antique shops, and many items are re-exported under lax regulations and could re-enter the market, fueling demand.”
His assessment is spot on. Late last year a New Zealand auction house sold approximately 110 ivory carvings for a total of just over NZD $10,000 (not including buyer premium) – at just one auction.
Sebunya explains why countries including New Zealand need to ban the domestic trade in ivory before it is too late for Africa’s elephants, “stopping ivory trade without international coordination is like squeezing a balloon — if the domestic market of one country closes, it bulges in another consumer country”.
New Zealand’s on-going inertia to close its ivory trade is an embarrassment and is in stark contrast to many other countries putting in place domestic bans for ivory, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
Pressure on New Zealand to take action is not new, but it is building.
The previous government received an Open Letter in 2014 asking the Government to fully consider stopping ivory trade. In 2018 Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Department of Conservation Minister Hon Eugenie Sage received an open letter from the Jane Goodall Institute of New Zealand calling for a stop to domestic ivory trading. The letter was signed by Dr. Jane Goodall, Kaddu Sebunya, Rt. Hon Helen Clark, Patron to the Jane Goodall institute New Zealand, international and national conservation agencies, and African based non-profits working to protect her elephants.
“In the midst of the 6th mass extinction and a human induced climate shift that threatens life as we know it, we must acknowledge responsibility, mobilise for action and work collaboratively. These must become the new ‘currency’, if we are to make positive and global change” – Fiona Gordon 10 April 2019.
TAKE ACTION: Add your voice to the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand No Domestic Trade campaign
4 Oct 2018 OPEN LETTER – the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand