Published 23rd April 2021
Johannesburg, South Africa, 23rd April 2021—Other ivory trades often overshadow the hippopotamus ivory trade. Following several developments surrounding hippopotamuses and the trade in ivory, there has been increased interest in this often-overlooked trade.
Sadé Moneron, Eleanor Drinkwater
Following several developments— including an auction of hippo teeth and a proposed cull of hippos in Tanzania, the cancellation and reinstatement of a hippo cull in Zambia, and a call for evidence on hippo ivory trade by the United Kingdom — there has been increased interest in this often-overlooked ivory trade.
There are additional concerns that the prohibition of domestic, commercial trade in elephant ivory in numerous countries/territories globally may increase the trade of hippo ivory as a substitute.
Given these concerns, research by TRAFFIC's ReTTA project assessed quantities of hippo ivory internationally traded between 2009 and 2018 and identified the major exporting and importing countries/territories. The research also sought to estimate the equivalent number of animals or offtake from the wild hippo population based on the quantities of ivory international traded.
The report released by TRAFFIC found that hippo ivory was predominantly exported from east and southern African range States to Asia, Europe, and North America. Much of the hippo ivory was re-exported to countries/territories within the EU, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, and the USA.
Interestingly, the trade of hippo ivory appeared to decrease during the assessed period, seemingly contradicting concerns that it may increase as a substitute for elephant ivory.
Key Report Findings
This research also found discrepancies within the reported trade data, potentially explained by numerous factors, including differing use of units by exporters and importers, trade in illegally harvested specimens, and incorrect or incomplete reporting. Offtake estimates were calculated at approximately 1% of the wild population.
Given the likelihood that additional trade information has gone undetected or unreported, the relatively conservative conversion factors this research used, these offtakes may be an underestimate."
Sade Moneron, TRAFFIC Research Officer and lead author of the report.
Based on the findings of this report, CITES Parties' Management Authorities should ensure that the relevant responsible personnel are familiar with the CITES reporting guidelines for submission of annual reports.
"A better understanding of the types of hippo teeth in trade and the use of relevant term codes by CITES Management Authorities could provide for a more accurate estimation of levels of offtake," continues Sade Moneron.
Furthermore, CITES Parties' Management Authorities should particularly ensure that terms and units used for reporting hippo ivory items are consistent and in line with the guidance.
contributed 40% of the total exports of hippo ivory
countries/territories were implicated in illegal trade in hippo ivory
Melissa Matthews Global Head of Communications
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