Cape Town - The scale of the illegal ivory trade is now so vast that, on average, one elephant was killed every 15 minutes last year, says renowned British primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall.
And she pointed out that in the Selous Game Reserve near her home in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, 60 percent of the elephant population – the biggest in the east African country – had been wiped out in just three years.
“It’s really shocking,” she said.
Goodall, who is delivering the first UCT Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture of this year at the Baxter Theatre on Thursday evening, was responding to questions at a media session on Tuesday.
Asked what she thought of moves to legalise the trade in wild animal products like ivory and rhino horn, she said she believed lifting the Cites (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) ban would be “criminal”.
“As long as there’s a demand, there will be killing,” she said, arguing that there were other ways to raise money for conservation than through ivory and rhino horn sales.
China’s recent destruction of an ivory stockpile was “very encouraging”, she said, and pointed out that the US had also recently destroyed ivory, France was about to do something similar, and Kenya was taking a “really good stand” with its zero-tolerance policy against poaching.
“So it’s getting around,” she said, noting that she would be in London for a heads of state meeting next week where she hoped to do some private lobbying against the ivory trade.
Goodall’s extensive research into the behaviour of chimpanzees started in Tanzania in the 1960s and continues today through 28 branches of the Jane Goodall Institute – a global leader in the effort to protect chimps and their habitats.
In South Africa, the JGI SA Chimpanzee Eden is home to chimps that have been misplaced from their natural habitats in Central Africa.
Asked whether she had a view on the current management of baboons on the Peninsula, Goodall said she was not sufficiently familiar with the situation as she had not spoken to those involved for some time.
But baboon-human conflict occurred “absolutely everywhere” and was “really, really difficult” to resolve, she pointed out.