A significant breach was made in the international ban on the ivory trade yesterday when two African countries were given permission to sell large amounts of ivory from their national stockpiles.
Delegates at the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meeting in Santiago, Chile, narrowly voted to allow Botswana and Namibia a one-off sale of 30 tonnes of elephant tusks in 2004, subject to strict conditions.
Last night the conference was dealing with further applications to sell ivory from South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The decision dismayed conservationists, who said it was likely to lead to a renewal of the poaching that was driving the African elephant to extinction before the ban in 1989.
"We are going to start seeing elephants getting killed," said A O Bashir, of the Kenya Wildlife Service. "And not only elephants but you are going to lose lives of rangers, of poachers."
The states say their elephants are plentiful and well-managed and that the ivory comes from animals that have died naturally or been culled.
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