15 June 2007

Africa: Compromise Reached on Ivory Trade

Nairobi — It was a great day for the African elephant Thursday morning at The Hague after Kenya and Mali led other African countries in hammering out a compromise deal on ivory trade.

The deal, agreed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting, came after days of intense wrangling.

An elated Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipng'etich described the breakthrough as "Africa's finest hour, a proud moment for the continent, its people and the elephant."

"At least CITES can now focus on other endangered species in the subsequent conference of parties as we put mechanisms in place to address the escalating illegal killing of elephants and trade in ivory across the elephant range both in Africa and Asia," he said after the deal was struck.

A bridge between the competing proposals from Kenya-Mali on suspension on trade in ivory and Namibia-Botswana for limited trade was reached after Kenya and Mali agreed to a nine-year ivory trade freeze.

Botswana and Namibia's request to trade in raw ivory was subsequently rejected and will only be considered after the nine-year moratorium period.

Kenya led a formidable team of 21 "like-minded parties" including Mali, Ghana, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Togo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Liberia, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville and Cote d'Ivoire in calling for the 20-year moratorium.

The elephant range states agreed on the establishment of an African Elephant Fund to collectively address the long-term issues of elephant conservation.

The trade has been banned since 1989, but CITES has twice previously granted one-off sales from stockpiles in southern African countries with robust elephant populations and a good record of combating poaching.

The deal still has to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority of CITES delegations, and modifications are possible.

Some conservation groups are particularly concerned by the situation in Zimbabwe, where poaching is on the rise. - BuaNews-NNN

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