For use of the media
not an official document.
Ivory auctions raise 15
million USD for elephant conservation
Geneva, 7 November 2008 – Over 15 million USD for African
elephant conservation and local communities have been raised through
the sales of 102 tonnes of stockpiled ivory, according to CITES
- the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora.
four auctions, conducted under the strict supervision of the CITES
Secretariat, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe sold
the 102 tonnes of ivory to Chinese and Japanese accredited traders
for a total amount of 15,400,000 USD. The average price paid was
USD 157 per kg, which contrasts sharply with the prices allegedly
paid for ivory that has entered the market illegally over the
past year (USD 750-850).
The ivory sold was all from legal, government-owned stocks;
most of it from elephants that died of natural causes during the
last 20 years or were culled before 1994 as part of a population
control programme. The sales were unanimously authorized by the
172 CITES member States in July 2007.
The Secretary-General of CITES, Mr Willem Wijnstekers, who oversaw
the four auctions, stated that, "the ivory sales are the
culmination of a transparent decision-making process, which has
been a major topic of discussion at CITES meetings for almost
two decades.” He stressed that "the sales that have
just finished were exceptional", and added: "I hope
that the mainstream media will make it clear to everyone that
the ivory trade has not reopened."
A number of critics suggest that legal sales of ivory boost
illegal trade. The levels of poaching and illegal trade have been
closely monitored by CITES since the first experimental sale took
place in 1999. The analysis of seizure data shows no correlation
between the controlled ivory sales and an increase in poaching.
In fact, levels of illegal ivory trade decreased in the two years
following the first one-off sale. Poaching levels appear to be
more closely related to governance problems and political instability
in certain regions of the continent.
Details about the auctions
At the first ivory auction, held in Windhoek, Namibia, on 28
October 2008 7,226 kg of ivory were sold for a total of USD 1,186,260.
At the second auction, held Gaborone, Botswana, on 31 October
2008, 43,153 kg of ivory were sold for a total of USD 7,093,550.
At the third auction, in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 1 November 2008,
3,700 kg of ivory were sold for a total of USD 500,000.
At the fourth auction, held in Pretoria, South Africa, on 6
November 2008, 47,356 kg of ivory were sold for a total of USD
After banning all international commercial ivory trade in 1989,
CITES agreed in 1997 to allow Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to
make a first experimental sales from their existing legal stocks
of raw ivory. The ivory – which weighed almost 50 tonnes
and represented 5,446 tusks - was sold to Japan in 1999 and earned
some USD 5 million. The funds were used for elephant conservation
activities and the poaching levels in Africa decreased during
the two subsequent years to the sale.
The buyers of the ivory were all approved traders from China
and Japan, which had been given the green light to buy the ivory
in July this year, after the CITES Standing Committee which oversees
the operation of the Convention, concluded that they had adequate
national legislation and controls to ensure that any ivory imported
would not be re-exported and that domestic manufacturing and trade
requirements had been met.
Under the agreement reached by CITES in July 2007, the countries
that sold the ivory are obliged to use the funds raised exclusively
for elephant conservation and community development programmes
within or adjacent to the elephant range. Once the ivory has been
exported from southern Africa, the monitoring will continue, and
the CITES Secretariat will have to verify that the ivory that
they first audited in March 2008 is the same ivory that arrives
in China and Japan, and that it is correctly entered into the
The CITES Secretariat is administered by the United Nations
Note to journalists: For CITES decisions related
to ivory trade, linkages between the ivory sales and poaching
levels, background documents on the use of the proceeds of the
ivory sales and contact details of CITES Authorities in the four
countries, see http://www.cites.org. For more information, contact
Juan-Carlos Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156 or email@example.com.
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