Thursday, April 30, 2015

Seized illegal ivory destroyed by UAE

DUBAI -- The UAE became the first Arab country to destroy its ivory stock when it destroyed over 10 tonnes of raw and crafted confiscated elephant ivory this morning in a powerful symbol that these pieces have no value and are driving the current slaughter of elephants.

The event was hosted by UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and organised in conjunction with Dubai Municipality, Dubai Airports, Dubai Customs and International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The stockpile, confiscated over the years as part of the country’s efforts to control the illegal trafficking of wildlife species, was destroyed during a special ceremony in Al Qusais, Dubai, attended by Dr. Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, as well as representatives from various government agencies involved in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, delegates from regional non-governmental organisations and deputies from embassies who participated in the London and Botswana conferences on the illegal trade of wildlife species.

The Minister praised all parties and associations involved in this national initiative, commending competent environmental authorities, the Ministry of Interior, customs authorities and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for their efforts in combating the illegal trafficking of wildlife.

He also emphasised the importance of consistency and cooperation between the involved parties, the country’s progressive technical and human capacities, as well as the development of efficient communication channels at the national and international levels. The last point is particularly crucial in relation to UAE, as the country represents an important link in the movement of international trade due to its geographical location.
Bin Fahad said, "The destruction of the confiscated ivory stockpiles in the state is in compliance with the values of the UAE and multilateral international conventions, particularly CITES, and the commitment to actively contribute to international efforts to conserve biodiversity and protect endangered species."

He also noted the strict standards for the trade of endangered species, as stated in the Federal Law No. 11 of 2002, on the regulation and control of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and its executive regulations.
The Minister added that efforts to control the illegal trafficking of wildlife species are not limited to elephants, but include all Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which are listed by the convention.

He also explained that the amount of ivory confiscated in UAE and other countries is indicative of the life-threatening reality that elephants face and the prevalence of illegal hunting which has overtaken natural birth rates in recent years, according to international research. The international community has responded through the establishment of conferences tackling the illegal trafficking of wildlife species held in London and Botswana in 2014 and 2015, respectively, where the UAE played active roles.

In a special statement on the occasion, John E. Scanlon, the Secretary-General of CITES praised the efforts of the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, which serves as the Management Authority of CITES.
"I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government of the United Arab Emirates, and to the Dubai Municipality, for inviting me to witness the destruction of more than 10 tonnes of confiscated elephant ivory and I regret that I am unable to make it to Dubai in person," said Scanlon.

He added that despite considerable efforts to combat wildlife crime, it continues to be a major problem worldwide. The poaching of African elephants and the illegal trade in their ivory is one of the most noticeable and destructive forms of wildlife crime.

"Over the past 24 months we have seen a number of countries, including Belgium, Chad, China, France, Gabon, Hong Kong SAR of China, Kenya, Philippines, and the United States, destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated," he said, adding, "Today’s important event in Dubai serves to raise public awareness about the impacts of illegal elephant ivory trade and the determination of the United Arab Emirates and the global community to put an end to it.

"However, when coupled with the seizure of ivory and prosecution of offenders, it sends a powerful message that the United Arab Emirates does not accept and will not tolerate this illegal trade or the devastating impact it is having on the African elephant, on the livelihoods of rural communities, and sometimes on national and regional security.

"This recognition of wildlife crime as a serious crime gained further momentum thought the recently adopted Doha Declaration at the 2015 UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
"The guidance provided by CITES Resolutions is that the illegally traded and confiscated elephant ivory should be restricted to four uses only, namely, ‘bona fide scientific, educational, enforcement or identification purposes’. Where this is not practicable, two options are provided by the Resolution, namely to save the specimens in storage or to destroy them.

"However, when a country, such as the United Arab Emirates, takes a decision to publicly destroy its confiscated stockpiles of elephant ivory, I do believe it presents a unique opportunity to draw public attention to the scale, nature and impacts of the serious crimes that lie behind these confiscations and to act as a deterrent to illegal trade.

"I congratulate all concerned for their vigilance and encourage the relevant Authorities to investigate the source and destination of the ivory to enable follow-up enforcement actions," the Secretary-General concluded his statement.

In a similar message, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, also lauded the UAE's decision to destroy the confiscated ivory.

"IFAW strongly encourages governments to destroy all their stocks of ivory. Each year, between 25,000 and 50,000 elephants are killed for ivory, which means 1 elephant killed every 15 minutes," said Dr. Elsayed Mohamed, Regional Director IFAW, Middle East and North Africa.

"IFAW is applauding the UAE decision and we are encouragingother Middle East countries to join the UAE in taking a stand against the ivory trade." He added.
UAE is the first Arabian country to crush its ivory stocks, following the recent footsteps of the United States, China, UK, France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, Gabon and Kenya, which burned or crushed its ivory stockpiles.

The demand on ivory is fueling illegal ivory trade. Seizures of illegal ivory in the world continue to increase: 24.3 tonnes in 2011, 30 tonnes in 2012, and 41.5 tonnes in 2013. Just last week, Security officials at Dubai International Airport have handed over 84 African elephant pieces in transit from the Ivory Coast to Vietnam. The amount was seized last month.

In 2012 and 2013, Dubai Customs seized shipments contain 474 tusks of illegal ivory at Jabel Ali port. In 2014, authorities seized 301 pieces of ivory at Dubai International Airport, which also saw the seizure of 1,500 ivory products and tusks during the years 2011-2014.

IFAW applauded UAE authorities for their continued success of efforts to combat illegal ivory trade and to address the challenges that threaten elephant conservation.

Starting on 15th May 2015, transit passengers at Dubai International Airport will learn that ivory smuggling leads to prosecution. The advertising campaign will be launched by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai Police, and Dubai International Airport.The campaign will run until 3rd June.

The advertising campaign will be also displayed at Abu Dhabi International Airport in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Water, Abu Dhabi Police, and Abu Dhabi International Airport.
As part of an international initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity to fight this trafficking, IFAW trains law enforcement officials on the prevention of illicit trafficking of wildlife species in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. IFAW recently signed a memorandum of understanding with INTERPOL, the first ever signed with an NGO by the INTERPOL programme on environmental crime. IFAW and INTERPOL have collaborated on many projects since 2005, including last year’s largest ever international operation to fight against ivory trafficking. -end-

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