The Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has confirmed its commitment to the closure of domestic ivory markets, agreeing by consensus to focus scrutiny on remaining legal markets such as Japan and the European Union.

A number of parties, including several African elephant range States such as Gabon, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nigeria Angola and Liberia, reiterated that all legal domestic ivory markets created opportunities to launder illegal ivory, contributing to poaching and illegal trade. 

The Humane Society International warmly congratulated the governments of Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and the Syrian Arab Republic for championing this proposal, as well as all 32 countries in the African Elephant Coalition for advocating for the closure of domestic ivory markets worldwide. The agreement reached will now go forward to the plenary of the conference for ratification on August 27-28.

The previous meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2016 called on countries to close domestic ivory markets that were “contributing to poaching or illegal trade”. Some markets, notably Japan and the European Union, have claimed that their markets were not known to be contributing to elephant poaching or illegal trade and have held out on taking action. 

Under the August 21 agreement, countries whose ivory markets remain open will now be requested to report on the measures they are taking to ensure that their domestic ivory markets are not contributing to poaching or illegal trade. Japan – which has a significant domestic ivory market and has been implicated in ivory trafficking to China – will be bound by this agreed decision, if affirmed by plenary next week.