After fierce debate — including opposition from governments like Namibia and Japan — the motion was adopted on the final day of the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, a 10-day meeting that drew 9,000 people to Honolulu, Hawaii this month.
“Today’s vote by IUCN members is the first time that a major international body has called on every country in the world to close its legal markets for elephant ivory,” said Andrew Wetzler, deputy chief program officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“It’s truly a landmark moment, and a victory for elephants that will hopefully be repeated later this month at the next meeting of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg.”
Although the motion is non-binding, it “urges the governments of countries with domestic ivory markets to take all necessary legislative and regulatory efforts to close them,” according to the IUCN.
Experts say that domestic ivory markets help fuel poaching by allowing traffickers a cover for their illegal imports and exports.
The United States and China, among the biggest consumers of ivory, have already agreed to enact near-total bans on their domestic markets.
At the IUCN meeting, Japan and Namibia — which also have thriving domestic ivory markets — sought to soften the language of the motion by making 20 different amendments, but those efforts were rejected.
“The global conservation community is stepping up,” said Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristian Samper.
“No more domestic ivory sales. Elephants have had enough of the ivory trade and so has the world.”