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Animal right activists criticise ivory sale in SA

afrol News, 6 November - Animal rights activists have slammed South African government for auction over 51 tonnes of elephant tusks held in Pretoria today.

SA held biggest auction in southern Africa, nearly a decade after the last authorised sale of ivory in southern Africa in 1999 by UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Animal rights groups have objected to auctions saying sales of ivory would stimulate black market trade that would lead to more poaching.

Kenyan conservationist, Richard Leakey said in a statement he believed auctioning off ivory stock-piles would fuel poaching particularly in the central, eastern and western African elephant range states, where poaching is not yet properly controlled.

Thursday's sale in Pretoria was preceded by Namibian auction on 28 October which was delayed for nearly two-hour when buyers refused to start bidding in front of the media.

Local media reports said a number of journalists were thrown out of the room at Reserve Bank in Pretoria after about two dozen Chinese and Japanese traders objected to public knowing how much they purchased tusks for.

Mr Leakey accused CITES of failing to protect endangered species and of being beholden to partisan interests.

United States-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) also released a statement saying the sale of an exorbitant amount of ivory to flood the market was irresponsible and would increase illegal hunting activities.

Traders from China and Japan were only two groups CITES approved to buy the ivory. IFAW protested the choice, arguing that they are among the world's largest illegal ivory markets.

Raw unworked ivory sells for upwards of 850 dollars a kilogramme in Asia, according to IFAW.

In total 108 tonnes of ivory, harvested mainly from elephants that died accidentally or of natural causes in national parks, have been up for grabs. Of the 51 tons for sale in Pretoria, 46 tons comes from the famous Kruger National Park.

Defending the auctions, South African government said four countries involved in the auctions have over 312,000 elephants and that those populations were increasing.

The ivory trade was banned globally in 1989 because poaching was decimating elephant populations. These sales and the 1999 sale are the only exceptions.

The 171 members of UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have given the go-ahead for four countries with thriving elephant populations to sell off ivory accumulated in their national parks.

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