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U.S. President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced today they are working together to end the global trade of ivory.U.S. President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced today they are working together to end the global trade of ivory.

30 Countries Unite to End Illegal Ivory Trade

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In order to combat the booming illegal ivory trade, the African Elephant Summit, which included delegates from 30 countries, held its first official meeting this week. The ivory trade, which has been on the rise for several years, has left the elephant populations of many African nations severely depleted.

In 2012 alone, an estimated 22,000 elephants were illegally killed throughout the African continent. If the current poaching rates remain unchecked, researchers believe that 20% of wild populations may be killed during the next decade.

In response to the growing threat of extinction, several key African and Asian countries pledged to take a zero tolerance stance on illegal ivory trade. Within these countries, wildlife trafficking will now be considered a “serious crime” and will be subject to international law enforcement.

“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing,” said Botswana President Ian Khama, “and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species.”

Additional measures to protect elephant populations – such as increasing multi country cooperation, reinforcing national wildlife laws and mobilizing financial and technical resources – were discussed as well.

During the summit, IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre addressed the social roots of the current trafficking issue. “Enduring poverty and rampant corruption, fueled by an increasing demand from Asia, are creating an impossible situation for Africa’s elephants,” she said. “We must address the issue of organized crime in ivory trafficking, and help ensure that those responsible are apprehended and held accountable for their crimes.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Related on Ecorazzi:

+U.S. to Destroy Six Tons of Illegal Ivory to Deter Poachers

+Prince William Calls for Action on Ivory Trade (Video)

+Thailand Prime Minister Pledges End to Nation’s Ivory Trade

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