Statement on Trade in live African elephants under articles III and IV

Updated on 08 September 2021

Statement on Trade in live African elephants under articles III and IV

8 September 2021 - In recent weeks, members of the public and non-governmental organizations have expressed concerns about the possibility that Namibia is planning to export live African elephants to destinations outside the natural range of the species.

The CITES Secretariat is issuing this public statement to provide some historical background and describe the complex rules that regulate international trade in African elephants.

Historical background:

The African elephant population of Namibia was transferred from Appendix I to Appendix II at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP10, Harare, 1997). This transfer was accompanied by an annotation, i.e. a note against the species' name in the Appendices that clarifies the scope of the listing or specifies special conditions in its application.

The listing of Namibian elephants included the following annotation related to exports of live African elephants:

"For the exclusive purpose of allowing:
…….
2)    export of live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations (Namibia for non-commercial purposes only);
…….
All other specimens shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly".

At the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP14, The Hague, 2007), the part regarding live African elephant exports in the Annotation was amended to read as follows:

"For the exclusive purpose of allowing:
……
b)    Trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations, as defined in Resolution Conf. 11.20, for Botswana and Zimbabwe and for in situ conservation programmes for Namibia and South Africa;
……
All other specimens shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly".

In paragraph 9 of Resolution Conf. 11.21 (Rev.CoP18) "On the use of annotations in Appendices I and II", the Conference of the Parties have agreed that, for species transferred from Appendix I to II with an annotation specifying that only certain types of specimens are subject to the provisions relating to species in Appendix II, specimens that are not specifically included in the annotation shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly.

The Secretariat notes that the existing annotation number 2 to the Appendices appears to make the conditions for trade in specimens of a species listed in Appendix II under Article IV more constraining than the conditions for trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix I under Article III. This might constitute an incongruence between the fundamental principles of the Convention as laid out in Article II.

Rules that apply to the trade in live African elephants

  • A. Trade on specimens of Appendix II species (Article IV)

As a result of this historical background, live specimens from the Namibian African elephant population can be traded "for in situ conservation programmes" under Article IV. Article IV lays down the conditions for the trade in Appendix-II listed species:

Article IV

2. The export of any specimen of a species included in Appendix II shall require the prior grant and presentation of an export permit. An export permit shall only be granted when the following conditions have been met:

(a) a Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species;

(b) a Management Authority of the State of export is satisfied that the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of that State for the protection of fauna and flora; and

(c) a Management Authority of the State of export is satisfied that any living specimen will be so prepared and shipped as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment.

3. A Scientific Authority in each Party shall monitor both the export permits granted by that State for specimens of species included in Appendix II and the actual exports of such specimens. Whenever a Scientific Authority determines that the export of specimens of any such species should be limited in order to maintain that species throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs and well above the level at which that species might become eligible for inclusion in Appendix I, the Scientific Authority shall advise the appropriate Management Authority of suitable measures to be taken to limit the grant of export permits for specimens of that species.

The Namibian CITES authorities must be satisfied that the export fulfills all the conditions for trade established in the Annotation to the Appendix II listing.

  • B. Trade on specimens deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I (Article III)

In circumstances where this special "Appendix II conditionality" is not fulfilled, i.e. when live Namibian African elephants are not traded for "in situ conservation programmes", they "shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly".

This means that Namibia should trade such live specimens under Article III of the Convention. Article III lays down the conditions for trade in Appendix-I listed species:

Article III

2. The export of any specimen of a species included in Appendix I shall require the prior grant and presentation of an export permit. An export permit shall only be granted when the following conditions have been met:

(a) a Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species;

(b) a Management Authority of the State of export is satisfied that the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of that State for the protection of fauna and flora;

(c) a Management Authority of the State of export is satisfied that any living specimen will be so prepared and shipped as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment; and

(d) a Management Authority of the State of export is satisfied that an import permit has been granted for the specimen.

3. The import of any specimen of a species included in Appendix I shall require the prior grant and presentation of an import permit and either an export permit or a re-export certificate. An import permit shall only be granted when the following conditions have been met:

(a) a Scientific Authority of the State of import has advised that the import will be for purposes which are not detrimental to the survival of the species involved;

(b) a Scientific Authority of the State of import is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it; and

(c) a Management Authority of the State of import is satisfied that the specimen is not to be used for primarily commercial purposes.

Namibia has confirmed that its trade in live African elephants would take place under Article III of the Convention. Namibia assured the Secretariat that the provisions in Article III will be fully complied with and that nothing will be traded outside the CITES requirements.

The role of the CITES Authorities of the Parties involved in the transaction is set out in the text of the Convention and relevant Resolutions. The scientific and legal findings as well as the final decision on the issuance, acceptance or refusal of CITES documentation and the exit and entry into their territories of the CITES-listed specimens are the sole competence and responsibility of the CITES authorities concerned by the transaction. This includes the verification of compliance with IATA Live Animal Regulations and, in the case of trade under Article III, the verification by the Management Authority of the State of import that the specimens are not intended for primarily commercial purposes.