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Illegal ivory trade still rampant

afrol News, 31 January - Illegal ivory smuggling continues to take place at an alarming rate, despite seizure of hundreds of kilograms, dismantling of networks and nabbing of smugglers.

"Consumer demand is booming, and domestic trade is out of control. Until this is addressed, we will not see an end to the bloodshed," Michael Wamithi, Global Elephant Program Manager of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said.

"The recent decision by CITES [Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species] conference of the parties in June to approve nearly a decade-long suspension of trade in elephant ivory is not enough," Wamithi told IFAW website.

On 20th January this year, Namibian officials arrested and charged three people after they seized 13 elephant tusks of seven dead elephants. The tusks totalled nearly 200 kg of ivory.

Zimbabwean police also arrested 11 suspected poachers who are believed to have killed 15 elephants within two weeks in Hwange National Park.

Similarly, Cameroonian security has disbanded a poaching network in the South where they confiscated 20 tusks.

"We must consider the breadth of this issue. The problem is not merely in Africa - past incidences have indicated China is the most likely final destination for illegal ivory. This side of the issue must be recognized and tackled. We must do everything in our power to halt their obtainment of pending ivory stockpiles," Wamithi said.

With the approval of Japan, CITES standing committee will meet in July 2008 to determine China's acceptance as a trading partner.

But Wamithi said China's application should be rejected mainly because elephant range states lack the resources to protect themselves against consumer demand.

IFAW's investigations into China's ivory trade regulations revealed that the country's domestic trade control mechanisms are far from being adequate. As such, it is impossible to ensure that continued trade in ivory will not negatively impact African and Asian elephant populations.

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