Ivory is the hot topic of the 17th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), being held in Johannesburg this week.
Luckily, the majority of representatives at the CITES summit have nipped in the bud an attempt to resurrect the legal ivory trade, led by South Africa itself.
Member states of the summit, collectively known as the Conference of Parties (COP), rejected a proposal to bring into effect the controversial Decision Making Mechanism (DMM), last discussed at a CITES meeting in 2007 and not up for renewed discussion until 2017.
The DMM was proposed in 2007 as part of a deal with African states who were against the ban on ivory trade to come up with an effective way of allowing legitimate sales of ivory in the future.
As a compromise, CITES allowed a one-off sale of ivory to China and Japan in 2008 but stipulated the DMM would not be up for discussion again until 2017. Little progress has been made in the eight years since, to the apparent frustration of some.
It would appear South Africa, supported by Namibia and Zimbabwe, thought it might have an advantage this year, hosting the summit on home turf, and proposed the DMM come into immediate effect, but the COP shut it down in a vote of 76 to 20.
"The size of the majority surprised the advocates of ivory trade," Robert Hepworth, former chair of the CITES Standing Committee and now an adviser to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, told the BBC. "I think they thought they would get more support from a conference in South Africa, after all they are playing at home, than they actually got."
According to the latest figures presented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the convention this week, Africa’s elephant population has declined by 111,000 just in the last decade, due to poaching.
The independent Great Elephant Census, the first pan-African elephant census, has that figure rise to 144,000. Either way, it’s not good.
Of course, the illegal poaching of ivory isn’t limited to just elephants, with rhinos and even birds being hunted for the clandestine trade in horns, tusks, and beaks – all of which are being discussed at this week’s meeting.
Although this was considered a win for the animals, the pressure is on for the delegates of 2016’s CITES summit to set concrete motions in place to increase the protection of these animals and to agree to work together to achieve this.