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CITES Secretary-General to oversee ivory sales
Geneva, 22 October 2008 – The Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr Willem Wijnstekers, will visit Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe during the next two weeks to supervise closely the ivory sales that the member States of the Convention agreed to in June 2007, in The Hague.
On the margins of the four ivory auctions, Mr Wijnstekers will also hold talks with Chinese and Japanese authorities, as well as traders, about the details of further supervisory activities of the Secretariat upon arrival of the ivory in those countries and thereafter.
The proceeds of the sales must be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range. The revenues are expected to boost the countries' capacity to conserve biodiversity, strengthen enforcement controls and contribute to the livelihoods of the rural people in southern Africa. All this without affecting negatively African and Asian elephant populations.
Under an agreement reached in The Hague in 2007, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were authorized to make a single sale of a total of 108 tons of government-owned ivory. The following quantities of raw ivory registered by 31 January 2007 have been approved for sale: Botswana: 43,682.91 kg, Namibia: 9,209.68 kg, South Africa: 51,121.8 kg, and Zimbabwe: 3,755.55 kg.
Elephant populations of the four countries are in Appendix II of CITES, which means that, even though they are not necessarily now threatened with extinction, the trade in their products is strictly regulated. Recent studies concluded that over 312,000 elephants live in these four countries and that their number has increased in recent years.
The CITES Standing Committee, which oversees the implementation of CITES between the major conferences, gave the go-ahead to the one-off sale of ivory last July by approving China as the second importing country. Japan had been approved earlier.
Each sale is to consist of a single shipment per destination and may only go to China and Japan, whose internal controls on ivory sales comply with the required verification standards established by CITES for this one-off sale.
Between March and April 2008, the CITES Secretariat conducted missions to these four countries and verified that the declared ivory stocks had been properly registered by 31 January 2007; consisted solely of ivory of legal origin (excluding seized ivory and ivory of unknown origin); and had been marked according to CITES requirements. They also verified that their weights were in accordance with the relevant records. This involved the checking and comparison of computerized databases and thousands of paper records, as well as the physical inspection and examination of hundreds of randomly-selected tusks and ivory pieces. In each case, the findings of the audits were satisfactory.
The CITES Secretariat is monitoring the Chinese and Japanese domestic trade controls to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not take this opportunity to sell ivory of illegal origin.
The 2007 African agreement stipulates that after these shipments have been completed, no new proposals for further sales from the four countries concerned are to be considered by CITES during a resting period of nine years that will commence as soon as the new sales have been completed.
Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan-Carlos Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156 or juan.vasquez [at] cites.org.
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