Africans agree to keep ban on sale of ivory

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The Independent Online

Ivory sales will be banned for at least another two years after opposing African nations reached a compromise at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.

In a surprise decision, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia dropped their demands to be allowed to sell ivory on the international market. In return, their opponents, led by Kenya and India, dropped a proposal which would have ruled out ivory sales at any point in the future.

Nehemiah Rotich, director of Kenya Wildlife Service, said yesterday: "This is a very big win for us. It's not being called a ban but in real terms it is."

A worldwide ban on ivory sales was introduced in 1989 but watered down in 1997, when Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia were permitted a one-off sale to Japan. Yesterday's decision means no further sales will be allowed before the next Cites conference in two and a half years' time.

Both sides had geared up for a tough battle, adopting entrenched positions. The southern African states, which have healthy elephant populations, had argued that ivory was there to be exploited. Kenya, whose herds were devastated by poaching in the 1970s and 1980s, countered that even the smallest ivory trade created a market for the poachers.

But debate at the conference was marred by the lack of quality information to support either side. A speaker from the International Wildlife Coalition described the evidence as "shockingly bad".

A poaching monitoring system will be introduced in advance of the next conference, when the southern African states are confident they will be allowed to sell ivory. Mohammed Valli Moosa, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, said: "The war is not over, we will be back."