Anti-trophy trafficking watchdog wants markets shut.


John Sambo, East African Business Week.

Date Published

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CITES, the global anti-trophy trafficking  watchdog, has recommended countries such as Japan with legal domestic ivory markets, which are not regulated by the convention, start closing them down because they are seen as contributing to poaching writes John Sambo.

The average price for a kilo of ivory is about $1000 before being fashioned.

Member states of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) were meeting in Johannesburg last month and once again voted against allowing some countries to sell their ivory stocks.

Namibia and Zimbabwe had requested CITES to sanction the sale of their confiscated ivory. Representatives of the two countries say the main reason is to raise money for conservation efforts, but the rest of CITES were not convinced.

Ginette Hemley, Head of conservation group WWF’s CITES delegation said, “African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would complicate efforts to conserve them. It could offer criminal syndicates new avenues to launder poached ivory.”

Last year, the United States and China mooted plans to close their markets, but the process has remained slow.

“While physical market availability in the US appears to be declining in the face of strong regulatory and public awareness measures by the government to ban the elephant ivory trade, vendors generally lack a clear understanding of the new Federal and State laws regulating the commercial sale of elephant ivory,” Rachel Kramer, Senior Program Officer for TRAFFIC US said.

A global ban on ivory sales was imposed in 1989 to curb a wave of poaching but, in one-off rulings, CITES allowed Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell stockpiles to Japan, and South Africa to sell to China and Japan in 2008.

A similar ban was applied to rhino horn in 1977, but poaching of both elephants and rhinos has soared in recent years.