(190304) -- MAUN, March 4, 2019 (Xinhua) -- A herd of elephant. (Xinhua)
NAIROBI -  Kenya has appealed to the European Union to end ivory trade and close the domestic market for trophies in order to halt a decline in elephant population linked to poaching. 

Najib Balala, cabinet secretary for tourism and wildlife, said the closure of ivory markets across Europe could be a milestone in efforts to save African elephants. "All legal ivory markets, whether in Asia or Europe, fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants," Balala said in a statement released in Nairobi on Tuesday. 

Balala, who also doubles up as the co-chair of the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), noted the EU has the largest number of ivory traders hence the need for the bloc to outlaw buying and selling of trophies in order to save the giant land mammals that are part of Africa's heritage. 

He had earlier visited the EU headquarters in Brussels where he met senior officials ahead of an Environment Council meeting underway on Tuesday where he is expected to lobby for the closure of domestic ivory market. 

The EU member states are already formulating a common position on ivory trade ahead of the 18th conference of parties (CoP18) to the convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) to be held in Sri Lanka from May 23 to June 3 this year. 

"While we appreciate the measures taken by the EU and its member states so far, we consider it essential to take further action to close the internal market and external trade in worked ivory," said Balala. 

He said the EU should take a cue from China, United States, and Singapore that have taken decisive steps to close domestic ivory markets. Balala said that legal markets have served as a cover for laundering ivory from poached African elephants hence need to close them in all parts of the globe.

 "Allowing the sale of ivory reinforces its social acceptability and makes it a desirable product to own or invest in only to stimulate transnational wildlife crime," said Balala. He noted that ivory trafficking has worsened conflicts, corruption and poverty while undermining security and stability of African states. 

An estimated 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year due to their ivory whose demand has spiked in the emerging economies. 

XINHUA