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China gets a share in Africa’s ivory stockpiles

afrol News, 16 July - China was approved yesterday as a buyer of legally stockpiled African elephant ivory, but under strict conditions. The decision was made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ruling which received a 9-3 votes, with two abstentions, comes into effect immediately it is put into formal written record, which means once put on auction, China would now be able to buy, especially stockpiled Elephant ivory from four southern African states.

A request by Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to trade ivory was originally approved at CITES conference of the Parties in 2002 and then modified with new conditions at a later meeting in 2007, including approval of Zimbabwe to trade its ivory. CITES meeting this week was charged with deciding whether China could be approved as a trading partner and commit to put in place adequate measures to tackle any illegal domestic ivory trade and to regulate legal trade effectively.

China will now also be expected to help its African partners in law enforcement as well as conservation and protection measures on African elephants. As an approved purchasing country, China like others, will also have to demonstrate adequate control measures to ensure that ivory can be tracked and remains within domestic markets.

China joins Japan in now having CITES approval to bid for registered, government-owned ivory stockpiles from four southern African countries. Stocks approved for sale include approximately 44 tons from Botswana, 9 tons from Namibia, 51 tons from South Africa and 4 tons from Zimbabwe.

For the African partners, conditions for sale directs that revenues made from ivory sales be put into special funds to support elephant conservation and community development programs. The four African countries permitted to sell ivory are yet to hold an auction and agree on a price, and transfer of ivory will be closely supervised by the United Nations CITES Secretariat. In 1999, Japan paid US$ million for a similar sale of almost 50 tons of elephant ivory.

Ivory trade was banned globally in 1989, but revival of elephant populations allowed African countries to make a one-time sale a decade later to Japan, the only country that had previously won the right to import.

There was opposition to China's inclusion in the latest auction from two African countries, Ghana and Kenya, that joined Australia in trying to block the decision, while Britain, some European Union members as well as Japan backed China’s inclusion.

Environmental groups were also opposed to China’s inclusion arguing, the country had failed to track over a hundred tons of illegal ivory sold in markets in over a decade ago.

Chinese citizens have also been topping the list of those arrested for illegal purchases from the continent, with a recent arrest in Nairobi of two Chinese nationals.

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