In 2013, Stop Ivory was set up by African and British conservationists to address the urgent threat to the African elephant. Entire elephant populations were being slaughtered, as international criminal syndicates profited from the demand for ivory, with the contraband being sold through illicit markets or laundered through legal markets in consumer countries.
Seven years later, an incredible international response has changed the fundamentals. The price of ivory in consumer countries has fallen substantially and there are encouraging signs across Africa that elephant populations are stabilizing. Stop Ivory’s founding CEO, Alex Rhodes, always argued that success would be defined by ‘the closing down of operations because we were no longer needed’. Stop Ivory’s board agreed at the beginning of 2020 that this stage had been reached, and is now delighted to announce the formal closure of the organization.
In 2014 the leaders of Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania, supported by the UK Government and Stop Ivory, launched the Elephant Protection Initiative, (EPI), calling for the closure of domestic ivory markets, the maintenance of the international moratorium on trade in ivory, the placement of government ivory stockpiles beyond economic use and the implementation of the 2010 African Elephant Action Plan.
In 2016 the international community agreed at both the CITES and the IUCN World Conservation Congress to call for countries to close domestic ivory markets that were contributing to poaching or illegal trade. That year, the US banned imports, exports and domestic trade in most ivory products; in 2017, China closed its commercial carving factories and outlets; Hong Kong has committed to phase out its ivory markets by 2021. The wholesale price of ivory in China is reported to have fallen from $2,100 to $730 per kilogram between 2014 and 2018. On 18 May 2020, the Court of Appeal in London dismissed a challenge to the UK Ivory Act, passed in 2018.
With the incentive for the killing of elephants much diminished, and with painstaking integrated work by national governments, NGO’s and the private sector to tackle illegal wildlife crime, the landscape has changed and prospects for the future of elephants are much improved. Our objective, to shift the balance of value away from the product, ivory, towards the living animal, the elephant, has been achieved.
Stop Ivory’s ambition was to support African leadership bring about this change. The EPI has grown from five African member countries to twenty-one. It has its own secretariat, the EPI Foundation, created in 2019, which will carry on much of the work done by Stop Ivory and our partners Conservation International, to secure the long-term future of Africa’s elephants but also the livelihoods of growing human populations that live alongside them.
Ian Craig, Chairman of Stop Ivory, welcomed the appointment of former CITES SG John Scanlon as CEO of the EPI Foundation; “With the price incentive for poachers much reduced, governments and communities can now focus on the management and care of elephants for the integral role they play both within their own ecosystems and supporting local economies. There is nobody better qualified to lead the EPI Foundation in supporting this work than John Scanlon.”
As Stop Ivory closes, it is grateful for the leadership and confidence of the EPI governments it has worked with, the work and collegiality of its many partners in the NGO and private sector, and the support of its benefactors.
For further information, any comments, contact the EPI’s Director of Communications, Barnaby Phillips on +44 777 238 6897 or firstname.lastname@example.org