Battle over ivory sales flares up once more is set to to lift ban Nations set for fresh Elephant poaching on the rise again

A new bid to profit from elephants has split Africa, reports Nicholas Schoon

The scourge of elephant poaching has returned to Kenya. The government says 46 have been slaughtered in the first five months of this year, compared to 19 in the whole of 1996.

Why? Because, claims Kenya, a resumption in the African elephant ivory trade is on the agenda in Harare, Zimbabwe, to- morrow at the 10th conference of countries participating in Cites, the treaty regulating the international trade in endangered species. "The mere anticipation of reopening the trade is enough to fuel the poaching industry," says a Kenyan spokesman. In fact the chances are that any resumption will be rejected when the 136 nations vote at the end of the two-week meeting.

Three African states which want to be allowed to trade ivory with Japan - Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana - are unlikely to get the two-thirds majority needed, because of staunch opposition from conservation groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and key governments such as the US. But the issue cannot be suppressed. This will be the third attempt since the ban in international ivory trading came into force eight years ago, and no doubt there will be a fourth.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, roughly three-quarters of African elephants were wiped out, mainly due to ivory poaching. Some 70,000 were being killed each year. Attempts by Cites to reduce the slaughter by setting strictly limited ivory quotas failed, hence the 1989 ban.

To some extent it has worked - poaching has declined and the free market price appears to have fallen substantially. A group of six southern African nations, including South Africa, entered formal "reservations" against the ban, which meant they were legally exempt from it. They have, nonetheless, desisted from trading openly to avoid pariah status and because it was hard to find any country which would legally import their ivory.

These six countries have the biggest elephant populations and, by and large, the animals are doing well there. The three now pressing to resume ivory trading say their combined population has risen 60 per cent in 13 years to 155,000. They argue they need to control elephant numbers because they are increasingly coming into conflict with the rising human population.

It is a turf war. Crops have been encroaching on the tracts of land that wandering elephants need, so they trample and eat crops and not infrequently kill people; elephants are the principal cause of death by wildlife in Kenya. Several fatalities have occurred when farmers come back to their land after an evening's drinking and recklessly attempt to scare the beasts away.

The three countries want to start selling off the ivory stockpiles they have built up from culled elephants and those that have died naturally. All three propose to sell a strictly limited quantity only to Japan, where it is used in the centuries-old tradition of carving hanco seals. The WWF estimates there are more than 500 tonnes of ivory in African stockpiles, worth tens of millions of pounds. For small, impoverished countries these are huge sums.

If trade were to resume, some argue, it would give elephants value as a long-term, sustainable resource. Governments and local communities would wish to conserve elephants and reap the benefits of a careful culling programme. But conservationists and other countries say any legal trade is bound to start increasing demand and therefore to boost the illegal trade, which has never been erased.

An expert panel set up by Cites concluded there were problems with all three countries, but especially Zimbabwe. A parliamentary inquiry had found high-level corruption in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the panel did not believe Japan had adequate measures to control the trade at its end.

Kenya is leading the fight among African nations against the proposals. Its elephant population has begun to recover after five-sixths were lost in two decades. It points out that it has burnt nearly 30 tonnes of stockpiled ivory, and urges that a consortium of wealthy countries buys the stockpiles of other nations - and burns those too.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on