Articles Posted in the Conservation category

Namibia first to auction ivory stockpile

October 28, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The first of Southern Africa’s legal ivory auctions will be held today in Windhoek, Namibia. Willem Wijnstekers, the secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which sanctioned the auction, is in Namibia to oversee the sale. The country will sell nine tonnes of ivory.

Japan and China have been approved as buyers. Mr Wijnstekers will hold talks with Chinese and Japanese authorities, as well as traders, on the details of how Cites will monitor the ivory on its arrival in those countries and thereafter, said Cites in a statement.

Cites has stipulated that the proceeds of the sales must be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programmes within or next to elephant ranges. “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,” said the organisation.

The next auction will be of Botswana’s 44 tonnes on October 31. Then follows Zimbabwe’s four tonnes and South Africa’s 51 tonnes next week.

In a BuaNews report, South African National Parks (SANParks) said the sale of South Africa’s stockpiled ivory will benefit elephant research, conservation and community development. “There is no argument that this money will go a long way towards enhancing conservation research, boosting our enforcement capabilities and helping communities who share land with elephants,” said David Mabunda, the SANParks CEO.

According to BuaNews, the money will also improve conservation through the employment of additional game rangers, obtaining more vehicles, erecting elephant-proof fences where needed and the purchasing of equipment.

But some conservationists argue that legal ivory sales open the doors for laundering of illegal poached ivory. Although conservation efforts in southern and eastern Africa have been successful enough that elephants moved from vulnerable to near threatened on the latest IUCN Red List earlier this month, not all elephants in Africa are adequately protected from poaching, they argue.

The last legal sale was held in 1999, when Japan paid $5-million for almost 50 tonnes of stockpiled ivory. According to Traffic, a joint programme of the WWF and IUCN that monitors the trade in wildlife around the world, the illicit trade in ivory “declined over the next five years” after the 1999 one-off sale. “We hope a similar result is achieved this time,” Traffic said in a statement earlier this year.

In June, Dr Susan Lieberman, director of WWF International’s Species Programme, said: “The sight of ivory openly and illegally on sale in many African cities is likely to be a far more powerful encouragement to those contemplating poaching and smuggling, than a strictly controlled one-off sale. The only way to end elephant poaching is through an effective clampdown on illegal domestic ivory markets.”

Traffic said that China had gained approval to buy ivory in the latest legal sale because it had convinced Cities that it had acted successfully against its own illegal domestic market. Tom Milliken, director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa said: “Now China should help other countries do the same, especially in Central Africa where elephant poaching is rampant and Chinese nationals have been implicated in moving ivory out of the region.”

Sources: AFP, BuaNews, Traffic, Cites, BBC

Ivory sale won’t help Africa’s elephants, say conservationists

October 17, 2008
Posted in Conservation

About 51 tonnes of South African stockpiled ivory is to be sold as part of a CITES-approved once-off sale to China and Japan. This is just under half of 108 tonnes of government-owned Southern African ivory that will be auctioned in the next two weeks. Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are the other sellers. But elephant conservationists are against the sale saying it will encourage poachers to launder their illegal stocks.

“We have no doubt that flooding the market with over 100 tons of ivory will put this endangered species in even further jeopardy,” said Michael Wamithi, programme director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW’s) global elephants programme and former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Throughout west and central Africa, isolated populations have actually been wiped out completely due to illegal hunting. If we do not take this trade seriously, we will surely continue see the demise of these majestic creatures – and sooner rather than later.”

The CITES Secretariat has certified that the South African ivory is of legal origin, the South African department of environmental affairs and tourism said in a media statement. The ivory comes from the South African National Parks (SANParks) and the parks boards of Mpumalanga, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Collectively the provincial agencies account for about 6 metric tons of the full stockpiled ivory, the department says.

About 45 percent of the ivory was obtained from culling between 1988 and 1994, when the country’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park, still practised this method of population control. The rest of the ivory, obtained from 1995 to the end of 2006, was from mortalities and breakages, the department says.

Ivory that was registered from 2007 onwards is not eligible for sale according to the agreement reached at the 14th Conference of Parties to CITES held in the Netherlands in July 2007.

“The tusks from elephants that have been part of the so called “big tuskers” in Kruger National Park will not be sold as it is seen as part of the heritage of South Africa that will be conserved for the future. Most of these tusks will be displayed in the Elephant Museum in Letaba Camp in Kruger National Park where visitors can see the tusks and get information on the carriers of these tusks,” said Dr David Mabunda, chief executive of SANParks.

CITES ruled only in July that China was fit to become a trading partner for the ivory. Japan was approved in 2006. Both countries stated that they would closely monitor their domestic markets, said CITES in a press release.

“The secretariat will closely supervise this sale and evaluate its impact on elephant population levels throughout Africa. We will continue monitoring the Chinese and Japanese domestic trade controls to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not take this opportunity to launder ivory from illegal origin”, said the secretary-general of the convention, Willem Wijnstekers.

But, says IFAW, both nations are known to be among the world’s largest illegal ivory markets. “Several multiple ton seizures have been made at Chinese ports in recent years. The lack of enforcement for the registration systems in both countries also provides a convenient loophole for illegal traders,” it says in a press release.

According to IFAW, the total amounts being auctioned are: Botswana 44 tonnes; Namibia 9 tonnes; South Africa 51 tonnes; and Zimbabwe 4 tonnes. These are the remnants of at least 10,000 elephants, the group says.

Jason Bell-Leask, Regional Director for IFAW’s southern Africa office also expressed his disdain. “The international trade in ivory simply cannot be justified by a perceived short-term gain such as profits from these sales. Not only are elephants a keystone species, but African tourism relies on their existence. To toy with that is to toy with the livelihoods of the citizens within these poor African nations.”

CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989. In 1997 it permitted Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of ivory to Japan totalling 50 tons because, says CITES, it recognised that “some Southern African elephant populations were healthy and well managed”. That sale took place in 1999 and raised about $5 million for elephant conservation. The forthcoming auction will be the second sale sanctioned since the ban.

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