Credit: creativecommons.org/Nils Rinaldi

More than 41 tonnes of elephant ivory were seized in 2013 – and heartbreakingly, that’s the largest quantity in the last 25 years.

However, the fact that up to 50,000 elephants a year are now being slaughtered for their ivory seems to have shocked world leaders out of their ennui and into action to halt poaching and ivory trafficking, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“Ivory poaching has grown way out of control in recent years, with large scale seizures (those weighing more than 800kg) becoming the norm rather than the exception,” said Kelvin Alie, director of wildlife trade for IFAW. “So far this year we have seen 18 large scale seizures – significantly up on 2011 when there were 14 large seizures.”

Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW’s EU regional director added: “Wildlife crime ranks among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of international crimes, along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales.

“In the past months we’ve seen more international cooperation to act for elephants than ever before. The EU recently committed €12 million to help combat the ivory trade and February will see the crushing of seized ivory in France and a major wildlife trafficking conference in the UK. There will be a major EU - Africa Union (AU) Summit in April. IFAW’s sincere hope and belief is that the EU must have a complete Action Plan, as it does for drugs and terrorism, in order to secure the future for elephants.”

Earlier this month delegates to the IUCN African Elephant Summit in Botswana committed to classifying wildlife trafficking as a ‘serious crime’. This unlocks international law enforcement opportunities that will make life that much harder for criminals.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol – the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.