As a former general-secretary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), I wish to comment on the Media Mix column headlined “Japanese media fail endangered species” in the Dec. 4 issue.

As a result of the hysteria surrounding the increase in poaching of African elephants, the international community reinstated a new version of the (in)famous Inquisition in order to identify the witch or witches responsible for this drama. Ivory trade was quickly identified as the culprit, therefore the witch to burn.

However we cannot burn trade. It is a concept — most likely the most important in the history of humankind that has allowed societies, communities and people to link together. So we decided instead to burn the symbols of the concept: ivory tusks.

But while the bonfire was on, we threw in the history book that tells us prohibitions do not work, have never worked and will never work. As it has been said many times, “Prohibition is not the solution, prohibition is the problem.” As long as there were hopes for a limited and controlled legal supply of ivory, poaching and other illegal activities were under control or, at least, at an acceptable level. But CITES’ ill-fated decision of 2007 to establish a “permanent” moratorium prohibiting legal ivory trade has provided the poachers and illegal traders with a blank check.

The involvement in conservation of celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince William might be good for their own reputation and for NGOs’ fundraising, but it constitutes a disservice to humankind and a prejudice to wild species.

Burning ivory is ludicrous and futile: The only chance of survival for the African elephant is for CITES to allow a controlled legal trade and for countries like Japan and China to maintain their leadership in promoting sustainable use as the most efficient conservation mechanism.

Eugene Lapointe

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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