- South Africa, Namibia and Botswana today noted yet another defeat in their plea to allow international sales of their overfilled stockpiles of ivory. Although the Standing Committee for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in November 2002 in principle had agreed on the sale, it was again put on ice.
While elephants remain an endangered species in most of Africa and international ivory trade is illegal to prevent poaching, the three Southern African nations sustain large national elephant populations that need to be kept healthy by controlled hunting. Subsequently, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana have accumulated stockpiles of 60 tonnes of ivory, which cannot be sold legally due to the CITES treaty.
Regarding the special situation in Southern Africa, in November 2002, CITES had given a special permission to the three states to sell their ivory stockpiles, but not before May 2004. As no practical solution still has been found on how to conduct the sales without triggering fake Southern African ivory sales countries where the elephant is endangered, the permission has now been postponed.
The Standing Committee of CITES this week again discussed the case of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana and found that the the conditions set in 2002 for the ivory sales had not been met, according to information released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The CITES conditions had included a system to monitor illegal killing of elephants, a guarantee that only registered government stocks originating from exporting countries should be sold and that any ivory seized or of unknown origin should not be traded. Further, CITES demands that importing countries should have sufficient existing national legislation and domestic trade controls.
Finally, the CITES conditions foresaw that proceeds of the 60 tons of ivory should be used exclusively for elephant conservation, community conservation and development programs within or adjacent to the elephant range.
The Standing Committee found that "there is still a lot of work to do" before South Africa, Namibia and Botswana could be said to comply with these conditions, according to IFAW. The environmentalist group welcomed the CITES decision, saying any legal ivory sale would lead to "a stronger demand for ivory across Asia and an increase in elephant poaching in parts of both Africa and Asia."
- It is imperative that stringent conditions for trade and verification of those conditions are met by both the export and import countries before any ivory trade proceeds, commented Peter Pueschel of IFAW. "Compounded by the lack of domestic legislative, regulatory and enforcement control in both Asian and African countries, any form of legal trade provides cover for the trafficking of illegal ivory from threatened populations of wild elephants," he added.
The CITES decision come on the heels of another agreement by seven African range states to oppose any trade in ivory. Earlier this month, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mali, Cameroon, Tunisia and Ghana unanimously agreed that the conditions for the 60 tonnes stockpiled ivory must be met before the sale is allowed to proceed.
Elephants are endangered in most of countries where population remain in Africa due to loss of habitat and poaching for ivory. The Asian elephant population has dwindled to only 35,000 to 50,000. The African elephant has also had a distressing history, plummeting from 1.3 million in the early 1970's to about 400,000 today.
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