Japan adds its voice to scrapping ivory ban
Tuesday 02 April 1996
In February, Japanese bureaucrats secretly met at the Mokuti Lodge in Namibia's Etosha National Park with officials from Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi, who collectively make up the South Africa Centre for the Ivory Trade (Sacit).
Delegates at the meeting, who included representatives of environmental NGOs and the British Department of the Environment, expect to reach a final decision in the next three months. But Japanese officials are quietly confident that they will lend their support to a lifting of the ivory ban, and the issue is likely to be raised at the next Cites convention in Zimbabwe in 1997.
Japan is one of the biggest ivory markets in the world, and almost 4,000 businesses rely on elephant tusks for the manufacture of jewellery, traditional musical instruments and personal seals, which are widely used in place of signatures. Since the ban, craftsmen have relied on stocks but only 160 tons remain and they will run out in five or six years.
At the same time, African countries are becoming increasingly frustrated by the ban which prevents them from selling off large stocks of tusks, legitimately gathered during official culls.
Half of elephants in Africa live outside the game reserves and, despite culling, they are often a great nuisance to farmers and inhabitants. African officials believe that the ban encourages poaching by driving up the market price of ivory, and fostering an atmosphere in which elephants are regarded as a menace rather than a valuable resource. A controlled trade, they argue, would also generate much-needed funds for conservation projects.
"When the ban first came in, there was a decline in poaching, but all the indications are that the scale of the illegal trade is increasing," says Dr Malan Lindeque, Namibia's deputy director of resource management, who set up the February meeting. "People have little reason to tolerate elephants - they are shot, ivory is exported, and there is no benefit to conservation or to society. Our intention is to make elephants as valuable as possible."
"Our principle is that a decision should be based upon scientific facts," says an official of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry. "The population of elephants in south Africa is very stable, and the south African nations should be allowed to reopen the trade for the sustainable use of ivory products. In Japan, the ivory industry is very traditional, and we regard it as an important part of Japanese culture."
Tokyo's Environment Agency is wary of raising the issue for fear of reinforcing Japan's reputation as a environmental violator. Japan uses the same arguments in support of its call for a resumption of commercial whaling, an issue which has generated international opprobrium. "There's not enough infrastructure in Africa to control an elephant industry," says David Butcher, the chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). "It's the most likely thing that would lead to elephant extinction. Anyone who said anything to the contrary is crazy."
Environmental groups also claim that controls in Japan are inadequate to prevent trade in illegal ivory and depend too much on the goodwill of the businesses involved.
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...