International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, has welcomed the decision by delegates at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to end a decade-long discussion about the establishment of future trade in ivory.

The final vote taken yesterday at CITES – which is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, until 5th October – saw 20 parties vote in favour of continuing with talks while 76 voted against. There were also 13 absentions.

Will Travers OBE, president and CEO of Born Free Foundation and president of the Species Survival Network, says: “The decision by CITES to end these long, inappropriate and dangerous discussions about a future trade in ivory is long overdue and much to be welcomed. Of course, we must be steadfast as it still has to be ratified in the final plenary session of this meeting which takes place next week but, if it holds, then it is good news for elephants and bad news for poachers and ivory smugglers.

“It is one more step taken at this crucial CITES conference and I am delighted that the UK played a positive role, along with EU colleagues, in supporting the view of the majority of African elephant range states.”

The most up-to-date survey of savannah elephants, ‘The Great Elephant Census’, published earlier this month, revealed there are now less than 400,000 savannah elephants, and that their numbers have plummeted by 30% over the past seven years.

Travers adds: “Had the parties to CITES decided to continue with talks about what a future ivory trade would look like, it would have almost inevitably stimulated poaching, given comfort to the criminal syndicates behind much of the poaching, and been totally out of step with global public opinion which seeks an end to the ivory trade.”