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Ivory sales get the go-ahead
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The Hague, 2 June 2007 - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has approved exports of elephant ivory from Botswana (20 tons of ivory), Namibia (10 tons) and South Africa (30 tons).
The exports were agreed in principle in 2002 but were made conditional on the establishment of up-to-date and comprehensive baseline data on elephant poaching and population levels.
Today's meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (which oversees the implementation of CITES decisions between the major conferences) determined that this condition has been satisfied and that the exports may proceed.
"The CITES Secretariat will closely supervise these new exports and monitor future trends in elephant poaching and population levels throughout Africa. By basing future decisions on reliable field data, CITES can develop an approach to elephant ivory that benefits States relying on elephants for tourism as well as those seeking income from elephant products in order to finance wildlife conservation," said the Secretary-General of the Convention, Mr Willem Wijnstekers.
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 ivory to Japan totalling 50 tons. This sale took place in 1999 and amounted to some USD 5 million.
In 2004, requests by several southern African States for annual ivory quotas were not accepted by the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention. Legal sales of ivory derive from existing stocks gathered from elephants that have died as a result of natural causes or problem-animal control. Today the elephant populations of southern Africa are listed in Appendix II of the Convention (which allows trade through a permit system), while all other elephant populations are listed in Appendix I (which prohibits all imports for commercial purposes).
The long-running global debate over elephants has focused on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation and to local communities living side-by-side with large and sometimes dangerous animals, weighed against concerns that such sales may increase poaching. The baseline data will make it possible to determine objectively what impact future ivory sales may have on elephant populations and poaching.
In a related but separate decision, the Standing Committee has also decided that Japan has established sufficiently strong domestic trade control systems to be granted the status of trading partner allowed to import the approved ivory.
Note to journalists: For more information, see www.cites.org, and in particular the Standing Committee meeting documents at /eng/com/sc/55/E55-10-2.pdf and /eng/com/sc/55/E55-10-1.pdf and the 2002 agreement on ivory at www.cites.org/eng/cop/12/Adopted_Amendments.pdf (pages 5 to 8), or contact Juan Carlos Vasquez at + 31 6 10615136 or Vasquez [at] cites2007.com or Fatma Gordon at + 31 6 22 293 372.
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