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UN wildlife convention gives green light to ivory sale


The Hague, The Netherlands – A limited sale of ivory has been approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

A “one-off" ivory sale was provisionally approved for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa at a previous CITES meeting in 2002, but could not go forward until certain decisions and criteria were met.

The Standing Committee of CITES, however, has concluded that Japan meets the necessary requirements to be an importing party. The committee also agreed that a scientific system to monitor elephant poaching had provided sufficient data.

“Although we agree Japan has met the necessary requirements, we caution that the sale should be closely monitored" said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

"This would include an annual report to the CITES parties on levels of ivory going through the system in Japan to ensure early detection of potential problems or trends.”

Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have committed, and are required by CITES, to use the revenue derived from the sale exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programmes.

The concept of a “one-off sale” of ivory means that designated stocks of ivory can be auctioned in a single event and exported to a CITES-approved ivory importing nation. No re-exports are allowed and the importing country is required to implement tight controls. The ivory is from registered, government-owned stocks and originates from elephants that died from natural causes or from problem animals.

China also put in a bid to be allowed to import ivory, which went to a vote (6 for and 6 against). The tied vote was rejected and China may ask again in a future meeting.

“Between December 2006 and January 2007, we conducted market surveys in seven Chinese cities" said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.

"Despite some improvements, there was clear indication of the resilience of the trade and the probability of significant quantities of illicit ivory in China.”

According to WWF and TRAFFIC, the real driver of poaching and illegal ivory trade is unregulated domestic ivory markets.

The two organizations want the African elephant plan agreed at the last CITES meeting in 2004 to be made effective. That plan requires every African country with a domestic ivory market either to impose strict controls on the trade or to shut it down altogether.

“With the exception of Ethiopia, the implementation of this action plan has been disappointing and had little impact,” Dr Lieberman added.


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