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Wildlife Trade Specialists

African Elephant Loxodonta Africana © Shutterstock / Lara Zanarini / WWF-Sweden

ETIS the Elephant Trade Information System

African Elephant Loxodonta Africana © Shutterstock / Lara Zanarini / WWF-Sweden

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The Elephant Trade Information System, commonly known as ETIS, is the CITES-mandated tool that tracks illegal trade in elephant ivory and other elephant products.

Managed and operated by TRAFFIC on behalf of the CITES Parties, ETIS has been designed to establish trends in illicit elephant product trade and changes in trends over time, and to assess whether or not such trends are related to CITES decisions for elephant conservation. The objectives for ETIS are also common to the other CITES programme, Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), which tracks poaching of elephants in the wild through a site-based system encompassing Africa and Asia.

70,000+

records now exist in the ETIS database

Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's Elephant and Rhino Programme leader and founder of ETIS

ETIS remains an indispensable tool in informing global decisions affecting elephant conservation

Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's Elephant and Rhino Programme leader and founder of ETIS

ETIS was first mandated by the CITES Parties at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 1997 through Resolution Conf. 10.10 Trade in elephant specimens. It holds the details of reported ivory and other elephant product seizures that have taken place anywhere in the world since 1989.

The seizures database is supported by a series of subsidiary database components that assess law enforcement effort and efficiency, rates of reporting, governance, economic factors, domestic ivory markets and other background variables that are time-based and country-specific. Since 2002, ETIS has produced comprehensive analyses of the ETIS data for consideration at each meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties.

Seized ivory products © Jamie Cotten / IFAW / WWF-US

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how ETIS works to protect elephants

data collection

A dedicated, centralised database concerning elephant ivory related enforcement actions such as seizures and arrests helps paint the clearest picture available of the global landscape of illegal ivory trade.

Records spanning decades enable analysts to map trends and emerging trade flows, helping to predict key areas of concern as they develop and identify where renewed international attention is most needed. This in turn ensures that informed and effective conservation policy is reached by CITES parties, helping to protect elephants from threats as they emerge.

Ivory coated with wax disguised as lunch bars, siezed Taiwan Sept 2012 © Huang MIJB (Investigation Bureau, Ministry of Justice)

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supporting CITES

Resolution Conf. 10.10 directs that “All Parties should provide information on seizures and confiscations of ivory or other elephant specimens … within 90 days of their occurrence.” In this regard, the CITES Parties are regarded as ‘Data Providers’ to ETIS.

In addition to providing a facility for supplying such data, CITES Parties may also use this facility to review or download the data in ETIS which relates to them, to retrieve summary reports of the ETIS data and to obtain other outputs that may be available from time to time. Regular ETIS reports are presented to CITES, along with policy recommendations and analysis.

Tom Milliken from TRAFFIC at CITES CoP17

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expert ivory analysis

Robust data and accurate analysis are at the core of ETIS recommendations.

Making an accurate assessment of illegal ivory trade trends requires an equally accurate conceptual framework for our monitoring, particularly given that ivory seizures and reporting rates vary significantly by country or territory.

As such, we have developed a rigorous “bias adjustment” model to compensate for such fluctuations, here’s how it works.

Rates of ivory-related seizures in Hong Kong between 2004–2015

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bias adjustment

The rate of wildlife seizures varies significantly throughout locations involved in ivory trade chains. Aside from the volume of illegal ivory passing through, the rate of ivory-related seizures are influenced by factors including corruption, the strength of national legislation, as well as local enforcement capacity.

A low rate of seizures does not necessarily mean that illegal ivory isn’t passing through the country. The seizures made in Hong Kong for example jumped from 4 in 2005 to 130 in 2015 as a result of targeted law enforcement, profiling, and increased intelligence efforts, rather than because of an increase in illegal trade.

In order to compensate for such variables and maintain an accurate representation of ivory, each country/territory is given a law enforcement ratio score, taking internationally-recognised corruption measures into consideration also, to accurately assess the efficiency and likelihood of illegal ivory being seized by local authorities.

Alongside the law enforcement ratio score, countries/territories are assessed for their rate of reporting. This criteria reviews both the quality of data provided (such as the consistency of data such as the weight and worked state of the ivory, number of pieces/tusks seized, origin of shipment, method of transportation, and location of seizure provided), as well as the efficiency and regularity of the reporting itself.

ETIS data between 2007–2016 revealed that some 50% of records do not provide a weight, with others providing an estimation.

The combined rate of reporting and law enforcement ratio scores are two ways in which ETIS uses a methodological approach to compensate for gaps in data, and provide as accurate a picture as possible of the constantly evolving illegal ivory trade.

latest news and reports related to ETIS

explore the latest news, reports and analsysis relevant to ETIS, elephant conservation and ivory trade

latest reports and materials

ETIS supplies information on ivory trade and seizures for use across a variety of TRAFFIC publications. View the latest resources relevant to elephant conservation and ivory trade..

Visit our resource library for the full TRAFFIC publication archive.