'WE CAN HELP SAVE THE WORLD’S ELEPHANTS AND RHINOS' - Opinion Piece, The Sunday Canberra Times, Sunday 28 October 2018

Early last month, the fresh and recent carcasses of 87 elephants were discovered in Botswana, killed and stripped of their tusks by poachers.

In 2017, 1,028 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa, while earlier this year we lost Sudan – the planet’s last male Northern White Rhinoceros.

Between 20,000 and 50,000 elephants are killed each year to supply the illegal ivory trade around the globe for which Australia is a destination country.

That’s about one elephant killed and stripped for its tusks every 26 minutes.

African countries have repeatedly called for global assistance and Australia must do more to assist them in ensuring the survival of these iconic animals.

Because currently, Australia’s domestic, commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn is unregulated at state or federal level.
It is completely legal.

Once specimens are brought into Australia, no legal requirement exists at any level of government anywhere in the country for domestic sellers to provide any evidence at the point of sale demonstrating a specimen’s legality, where it came from or its age.

But when Galaxy Research conducted 2017 poll for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, it found that 77 per cent of Australians thought that trading in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn within Australia was illegal.

The existence of legal domestic markets around the world continues to fuel the poaching crisis in Africa. Australia is not immune from contributing to the global problem both as a consumer market and given our close proximity to Asia, as a transit route.

Investigations of online traders, auction houses and antique dealers in Australia have identified domestic markets for ivory and rhinoceros horn worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2016 World Wildlife Crime Report–Trafficking in protected species identified Australia as a destination and transit country for ivory.

In the last decade, 322 imported and 79 exported ivory items have been confiscated by Australian authorities along with 24 rhinoceros products.

In 2015 a shipment of 110kg in unworked ivory pieces was intercepted by customs officials on its way from Malawi to Malaysia.

In 2014, Federal investigators arrested a Sydney man in possession of $80,000 worth of illegal ivory products.

This year the United Kingdom announced it would ban its domestic trade in elephant ivory.

The United Kingdom stated that it had taken this step because, ‘elephant populations are at a tipping point with the species facing extinction due to the ivory poaching crisis.’

The UK’s announcement was widely approved by the British public. The UK government received more than 70,000 responses to its consultation process, and over 88 percent were in favour of the ban.

The UK joined China, the United States, Hong Kong, and the European Union in moving to ban their respective domestic trades.

These bans have already had an impact. The wholesale price of ivory has tumbled from a high of US$2,100 per kilo to US$660 per kilo.
Every piece of ivory, every tusk, every carved statue, bracelet or trinket, represents an elephant that has paid the ultimate price.

As the rate of slaughter is far higher than the rate of reproduction, the extent of poaching, fueled by consumer demand and the existence of legal domestic markets for ivory and rhinoceros horn, is driving these species to extinction.

All for a few kitsch trinkets or traditional remedies.
Industry stakeholders are beginning to recognise the role they can 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 recently joined an international coalition to strengthen policies to reduce the trade.

Australia can no longer watch on from the sidelines.
That is why, as Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, I initiated an inquiry into this insidious trade earlier this year.
The Committee’s report was tabled on September 19. Its primary recommendation is that the Commonwealth, states and territories, through the Council of Australian Governments, develop and implement a national domestic trade ban on elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
While this will take some cooperation to achieve, the Committee pointed out that the National Firearms Agreement provides an excellent example of how Australian governments could proceed with a domestic trade ban on Australia’s trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.
To help save these iconic species, an Australian ban can’t happen soon enough.
The Morrison Government can act to ban this trade now with Labor’s full support.
Indeed, Labor is already developing a policy with the states and territories to ban this trade.
What will we say to our children when they can see only pictures of elephants and rhinoceroses in the same way we now can only find out about the Tasmanian Tiger?
These majestic animals are too special to lose. Australia must act and stop giving poachers a reason to kill them.