The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, Saturday approved exports of 60 tons of elephant ivory from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa to Japan. The approval comes over the objections of many African elephant range states and conservation groups who say legal trade will give cover to ivory poachers.
The CITES Standing Committee approved the sales ahead of this week’s triennial CITES conference, which opened officially on Sunday. Botswana will be permitted to sell 20 metric tons of ivory, Namibia will sell 10 tons, and South Africa will sell 30 tons.
The exports from these three countries 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.
The CITES Standing Committee determined that this condition has been satisfied and that the exports may proceed.
"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 CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
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.
Between August 2005 and August 2006, more than 26 metric tons of ivory were seized, and customs officials estimate that 90 percent of contraband products pass over borders undetected.