The image of the ivory trade is a haunting one—lifeless elephant bodies strewn across the African savannah, their faces sawn off for their tusks. Many of their family members likely watched helplessly as they died, some leaving orphaned calves behind.
The global ivory trade of the 1970s and 1980s reduced the wild population of African elephants by half. Despite the 1989 ban on the international trade of ivory, insidious poachers and greedy ivory profiteers still drive the slaughter, laundering illegal ivory into markets abroad. Heavily armed criminals pepper elephant herds with bullets, often killing dedicated, protective park rangers in the process. There is clear pressure to poach elephants and sell their tusks. Any relaxing of the current ban on international sales of elephant ivory will open the door to more poaching and illegal trade—yet two African countries are proposing to do just that.
On March 13, 2010, delegates from 175 countries will descend on Doha, Qatar, in the Middle East for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (popularly known as "CITES"). There, they will consider dozens of proposals concerning international protection of imperilled species—including dangerous petitions from Tanzania and Zambia to sell hundreds of thousands of pounds of elephant ivory that was seized in illegal trade.
Please contact the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and ask him to instruct the U.S. delegation to the upcoming CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar, to strongly oppose any attempt to allow any quantity of ivory to be traded or sold or to otherwise weaken protection for African elephants.