For use of the media
not an official document.
African governments reach consensus on ivory sales
| See also ...
The Hague, 14 June 2007 - Eighteen years after the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the ivory
trade, Ministers from the African elephant range states have for
the first time achieved a regional consensus on how to address this
highly charged issue.
Under the compromise agreement reached today, each of four southern
African countries will be permitted to make a single sale of ivory
on top of the one-off sale totalling 60 tonnes that was agreed in
principle in 2002 and given the go-ahead earlier this month.
The ivory for these new sales will consist of all government-owned
stocks that have been registered and verified as of 31 January 2007.
Each sale is to consist of a single shipment per destination and
may only go to countries whose internal controls on ivory sales
have been verified as being sufficient by the CITES Secretariat.
The agreement stipulates that after these shipments have been completed
no new proposals for further sales from these four countries are
to be considered by CITES during a "resting period" of
nine years that will commence as soon as the new sales have been
In the meantime, the CITES Standing Committee, which oversees the
implementation of CITES decisions when the Conference of the Parties
to CITES (CoP) is not in session, will work on developing a new
and more effective approach to taking future decisions on the international
"This African solution to an African problem marks a great
step forward for wildlife conservation," said CITES Secretary-General
Willem Wijnstekers. "It is good news for the elephant, good
news for the people who live alongside them and good news for regional
cooperation in Africa."
The long-running global debate over the African elephant has focused
on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation
and to local communities living side by side with elephants and
concerns that such sales may encourage poaching.
CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989.
Then, in 1997, recognizing that some southern African elephant populations
were healthy and well managed, it permitted Botswana, Namibia and
Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of a stock of ivory to Japan totalling
50 tonnes. The sales took place in 1999 and earned some USD 5 million.
In 2002, CITES agreed in principle to allow a second sale from
Botswana (20 tonnes), Namibia (10 tonnes) and South Africa (30 tonnes).
(In 2004 a request that CITES authorize annual quotas was not agreed.)
The one-time sales were made conditional on the ability of the MIKE
programme (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) to establish
up-to-date and comprehensive baseline data on elephant poaching
and population levels. MIKE was established to provide an objective
assessment of what impact future ivory sales may have on elephant
populations and poaching.
The CITES Standing Committee determined on 2 June of this year
that the MIKE baseline data have now been assembled and that the
sales could go forward.
For this year's conference, Botswana and Namibia jointly submitted
a new proposal to ease the conditions for permitting future sales
of ivory. In addition, Botswana requested authorization for a one-off
sale of 40 tonnes of existing ivory stocks followed by an annual
export quota of up to eight tonnes of ivory per year from its national
Taking the opposing view, Kenya and Mali proposed that a ban on
trade in raw or worked ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa
and Zimbabwe be imposed for a period of 20 years. They argued that
allowing any trade in ivory will increase the poaching of elephants.
The African range States met separately throughout the course
of the current CITES conference in an effort to bridge their differences.
With the help of Ministers attending yesterday's Ministerial segment,
they managed today to reach the consensus described above.
Note to journalists: For further information, contact Michael
Williams at +31-6-2229-3372 (until Friday), +41-79-409-1528 (cell),
+41-22-917-8242 (office), email@example.com; or Juan-Carlos
Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156 (office) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
read previous press releases, go to Archives.