AUSTRALIA MUST BAN ITS DOMESTIC TRADE IN IVORY AND RHINOCEROS HORN - Senators Statements Speech, Wednesday 21 March 2018
I rise today, in sadness, to note the death of Sudan, this planet's last male northern white rhinoceros. On Monday, Joseph Thuita, from Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, comforted Sudan before he passed away. In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio 'We are witnessing the extinction of a species that survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.'
Sudan had been an inspirational rhino across the world. Thousands had come to Ol Pejeta in Kenya to see him, raising awareness of rhino conservation. Two female northern white rhinoceroses survive him and they're surrounded by armed guards 24 hours a day to protect them from poaching. Neither of them, though, is capable of bearing young.
The poaching crisis in Africa is one of the most pressing conservation crises of the modern day, and Australia has a role to play in ending it. Each year, between 20,000 and 50,000 elephants are being poached for their tusks. In 2017, 1,028 rhinoceroses were poached in South Africa. We had 25 species of rhinoceros 100 years ago. Today, only five species are left, including those last two female northern whites. The existence of legal domestic markets around the world continues to fuel the poaching crisis in Africa. In the past two years, there have been numerous requests for assistance at the United Nations General Assembly and the International Union for Conservation for Nature and through CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, for member states like Australia to take all necessary steps to close legal domestic ivory markets.
This is why domestic bans on trade in ivory and rhino horn are now being seriously considered and implemented by the international community. In 2016 the United States announced a policy to ban all domestic trade in ivory, with state governments passing legislation to implement the nationwide policy. China, which represents 70 per cent of the global ivory trade, announced in December 2016 that it would close all ivory-carving factories and retail outlets in the country by 31 December 2017, which is an incredible feat for China, recognising the trade it consumed. Hong Kong, similarly, passed legislation in January 2018, with a ban to be implemented by 2020. The European Union and the United Kingdom have recently completed public consultations on policies to implement domestic bans in their jurisdictions. These bans have already had an impact. The wholesale price of ivory has tumbled from US$2,100 to US$660 per kilo.
Australia is not immune from contributing to this global problem as both a consumer market and, given our close proximity to Asia, a transit route. In the last decade 322 imported and 79 exported ivory items have been confiscated by Australian authorities, along with 24 rhinoceros products. But there is still a significant regulatory gap in relation to the commercial sale of such products in Australia, including the lack of consistency for ivory and rhinoceros horn provenance documentation. Investigations of online traders, auction houses and antique dealers, undertaken over a number of years by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, found Australia had both legal and illegal domestic markets for elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn, worth thousands of dollars annually.
Some industry stakeholders are recognising the role they play in reducing demand for wildlife products, including ivory. Leading Australian auction house Leonard Joel has implemented a policy to cease trading in any rhinoceros and ivory products, while major online trading platforms, including eBay, Google and Alibaba, have joined an international coalition to strengthen policies to reduce trade. The existence of legal domestic markets and trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn anywhere is a direct threat to the future of elephants and rhinoceroses everywhere. The Australian government must start playing its role to close our domestic ivory and rhinoceros horn markets now, so that we don't see a further extinction of species and rhinos like Sudan. Australia must follow in the steps of other nations across the world. I urge Minister Frydenberg to do something about it, so that we can see an end to the domestic trade of ivory and rhinoceros horn in Australia.