Jo’ burg – The U.S. and more than 20 African countries on Monday pushed for a large-scale closure of domestic ivory markets in an attempt to stop the dramatic decline of Africa’s elephant populations.
The proposal was being debated at the largest meeting so far of the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which brought together representatives of over 180 countries in Johannesburg.
The two-week conference, which opened on Saturday, will consider changes to the trade controls of about 500 animal and plant species in an attempt to combat illegal trade and to improve the sustainability of legal trade.
“International ivory trading has been banned since 1990, but the ban does not concern domestic internal markets.
It noted that a number of countries, including the U.S. and Kenya have largely banned domestic ivory sales.
Peter LaFontaine from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said domestically sold ivory is supposed to have been acquired legally, but the controls are usually insufficient.
Satyen Sinha, a Consultant for IFAW, added that domestic ivory trade often acts as a loophole for international ivory sellers using it as a laundering mechanism.
“Banning the domestic markets would send a strong signal to the international community at a time when dramatic reports are emerging on the decline of Africa’s elephant populations,’’ Sinha said.
The EU, however, wanted to continue allowing the trade ivory antiquities within the EU market.
“We agree that the domestic market should be looked at, but only if it has a link with international trade,’’ Gael de Rotalier, team leader for the EU at the CITES conference, said.
Report says the proposed closure of domestic markets is facing even stronger opposition from some African countries with relatively large elephant populations, including Namibia.
However EU experts said they expected a deal to be reached.
The debate on the domestic market ban followed a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that Africa’s elephant population had dropped by 111,000 to 415,000 individuals since 2006.
(Edited by Oluleye Abiodun/Julius Enehikhuere)
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