Angola has announced that it will vigorously combat the ivory trade, pledging to close one of the largest domestic ivory markets in the world and implement tougher border and screening controls.
The southern African country also promised to fulfil its commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including stepping up its efforts to implement its National Ivory Action Plan.

The tough new stance comes as Angola firms up plans to play global host to World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June. This year’s WED, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is themed on tackling the illegal trade in wildlife, and aims to mobilize global action around the issue, the UN agency said in a press release.

“The Commission Against Environmental Crimes has presented a decree banning the sale of ivory and ivory artifacts in Angola and we are deploying a wildlife crime unit at Luanda’s international airport,” said Angola’s Environment Minister, Maria de Fatima Jardim, addressing a meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Cairo on Monday. “We are determined to end the trade in ivory and build a new Angola, in which both people and our unique species can thrive.”

As a signal of its intent, Angola has also joined 12 other nations as a signatory to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), which focuses on protecting African elephants through measures such as closing domestic markets. Angola aims to end all domestic trading in ivory, undertake a robust inventory of its stockpile and commit to its destruction before World Environment Day.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “The illegal trade in wildlife destroys ecosystems and livelihoods, compromises rule of law and national security, and undermines sustainable development. In the last few years we have seen strong steps to combat this scourge, including the first UN resolution on wildlife trafficking. Angola’s commitments are another milestone and send a powerful message to poachers, and the international criminal networks that back them, that they have no future.”

Little is known about the size of Angola’s remaining elephant population, which historically lived in the southeast of the country. However, the results of recent surveys, due to be released in the coming months, are anticipated to confirm heavy population declines during Angola’s decades-long civil war.

The number of elephants killed in Africa has exceeded 20,000 a year out of a projected population of between 420,000 and 650,000. But with reports that 100,000 elephants were killed in just a three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the population figures may now be lower.

Figures released on World Wildlife Day (3 March) by CITES, based on its Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, found that the most serious levels of poaching were recorded in Central and West Africa. Forest elephants in that region have declined by over 60 per cent in a decade.