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India’s Abstention on Reopening Ivory Trade

Dec 18, 2022

India’s Abstention on Reopening Ivory Trade

Our today's edition of Current Affairs is here in which we will talk about India’s Abstention on Reopening Ivory Trade. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is mentioned below:

For prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change

About CITIES, Ivory Trade, India and Ivory Trade, The Wild Life Protection Act, of 1972

For Mains: 

About CITIES, India and Ivory trade, India’s Stance on Reopening Ivory Trade

Probable question

Poaching for ivory is one of the major causes for the dramatic decline of elephant population worldwide. Analyze the statement in light of recent India’s stance on reopening the Ivory trade. (10 marks) 


Recently India’s decision not to vote against a proposal to re-open the international trade in ivory at the ongoing conference of the CITES surprised many.


  • Full form: CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • CITES is an international agreement between governments (presently 184).
  • The convention entered into force in 1975 and India became the 25th party, a state that voluntarily agrees to be bound by the Convention, in 1976.
  • The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the supreme decision-making body of CITES.
  • Aim: It is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. 
  • CITES Appendix I: It lists species threatened with extinction. Import or export permits for these are issued rarely and only if the purpose is not primarily commercial. 
  • CITES Appendix II: It includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be strictly regulated.
  • In every 2 years, the CoP applies a set of biological and trade criteria to evaluate proposals from parties to decide if a species should be in Appendix I or II.

About Ivory trade

  • The international ivory trade was globally banned in 1989 when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I. 
  • In 1997, the elephant populations of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe were transferred to Appendix II and South Africa’s in 2000 to allow two “one-off sales” in 1999 and 2008 of ivory stockpiled from natural elephant deaths and seizures from poachers.
  • Namibia’s proposal for a regular form of controlled trade in ivory by delisting the elephant populations of the four countries from Appendix II was rejected in CoP17 (2016), CoP18 (2019), and ultimately in CoP19 (2022).
  • The four southern African countries argue that their elephant populations have bounced back and the international sale of their stockpiled ivory, can generate much-needed revenue for elephant conservation and incentivize communities.
  • The demand is countered by opponents, saying that any form of sharp spikes in elephant poaching was recorded across the globe after the one-off sales allowed by the CITES in 1999 and 2008.

India and Ivory trade

  • The endangered Asian elephant was included in CITES Appendix I in 1975, which banned the export of ivory from the Asian range countries. 
  • In 1981 when New Delhi hosted CoP3, India designed the iconic CITES logo in the form of an elephant. Over the years, India’s stand has been unequivocal on the ivory issue.
  • In 1986, India amended The Wild Life (Protection) Act, of 1972 to ban even domestic sales of ivory. 
  • In 1991, India again amended the law to ban the import of African ivory, after the global ban on the ivory trade.
  • 1994 CoP9: At Lauderdale, US, India opposed the down-listing of the elephant population of South Africa from Appendix I to II.
  • 1997 CoP10: At Harare, Zimbabwe, India opposed the proposal to down-list the southern African elephant populations.
  • 2000 CoP11: At Gigiri, Kenya, India moved a proposal along with the host country to up-list all elephant populations in Appendix II to I.
  • At CoP17 and CoP18, India voted against proposals to re-open trade in ivory from the southern African states. 

India’s Stance on Reopening Ivory Trade

  • India has always been at the forefront of global elephant conservation initiatives.
  • After protracted negotiation, India signed an agreement in July with Namibia to fly in cheetahs. India has agreed to promote “sustainable utilization and management of biodiversity” by supporting advances in this area of bilateral cooperation “at international forums including meetings of” CITES.
  • Namibia sought India’s support under this agreement for the longstanding proposal to re-open the ivory trade at CITES.
  • This is possibly why India chose to abstain and not vote against the proposal on the ivory trade at CoP19.

News Source: The Indian Express


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