Following the lead of the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany, France decided to ban from its soil the exportation of raw and cut ivory.
Cannes Enchères (Cannes Auctions) took the responsibility to circumvent this decision by proposing to future Asian buyers the sale of these tusks on Saturday, March 7. They will do this by shipping the tusks through Belgium and by benefiting from re-exportation certificates delivered by Belgian authorities. Belgium has not yet followed the lead of the four other European countries. Alerted to this prospect, the Belgian Minister of Energy, of the Environment and of Sustainable Development just declared that if this ivory arrives in Belgium for purposes of exportation outside of the European Union, she will halt it for investigation. Ms. Marghem, the minister, is also calling for a global European accord on the ban of the re-exportation of ivory tusks from the European Union.
Robin des Bois’ campaign, associated with 38 French and international organizations, is progressing in all of Europe.
On its side, Cannes Enchères is continuing to pretend that the sale of these tusks held for a longtime by pensioners of the colonial past can contribute to the resolution, or even the eradication, of poaching.
In light of the 30,000 to 40,000 elephants killed each year, the sale at auction of several dozens of pairs of tusks appears like a drop in an ocean of blood. All the experts acknowledge that legal and illegal ivory trafficking is uncontrollable because of the corruption that reigns in the majority of exporting and importing countries. Even Chinese authorities note that ivory that is presumed legal serves as a veil and vehicle for illegal ivory. In France, a kilo of ivory sells at auction for up to 1,000 euros. In China, the kilo goes for 6,000 euros. Cannes Enchères expects to sell 500 kilograms tomorrow.
At stake is the extinction of an animal species that is emblematic of and indispensable to ecosystems. The European Union is the leading global exporter of raw ivory that is deemed legal. In the past ten years, Europe has officially exported around 600 elephant tusks.
Faced with pressure from the French government, Robin des Bois and French and international NGOs, Cannes Enchères decided to resort to police protection to avoid disruption of its sale at auction. It is the first time in the world that the sale of ivory will take place under police protection. It is stunning to see a private French company call a police station to help it bypass a decision made by the French government.
There is still a way out. It is, as the company Lawson in Australia did a few weeks ago, the last-minute removal of the elephant tusks from the auction by Cannes Enchères.