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5 June 2007 - HSI condemns decision by UN body to allow ivory trade to Japan      

HSI condemns decision by U.N. body to allow ivory trade to Japan

Sydney, 5 June 2007                                      

Humane Society International (HSI) condemns a decision made by a United Nations wildlife conservation treaty that will allow the export of 60 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from three southern African countries to Japan.

The decision, made by the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), will allow a maximum of 20,000 kg of ivory from Botswana, 10,000 kg from Namibia and 30,000 kg from South Africa to be traded and dispatched in a single shipment under strict supervision of the Secretariat to Japan.

The date when the ivory will be exported was not announced.

The Committee’s decision will almost certainly result in increased poaching of elephants and illegal ivory trade,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “CITES has turned a blind eye to the concerns expressed by many African countries about how their elephants—and even their wildlife rangers trying to protect elephants—are killed by poachers seeking ivory for Asian markets.”

In 1989, CITES banned the international commercial trade in ivory following a decade during which half of all wild African elephants were poached to supply the illegal ivory trade. During this time—between 1979 and 1989—the African elephant population declined from 1.3 million animals down to only 600,000. CITES tried but failed to regulate a legal ivory trade during those ten years. Instead, the legal trade provided a cover for the smuggling of illegal ivory obtained from poached elephants. Since the ban, many elephant populations have stabilized and some have even recovered but not to their pre-1979 levels.

In 1999, CITES allowed the “one-time experimental export” of 49 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan. Following the export, illegal ivory trade increased and has continued to increase to this day. Today’s decision marks the second time that CITES has agreed to a “one-off sale” of stockpiled ivory.

More poached ivory is in trade now than at any time since the 1989 ban came into effect,” said Mr. Kennedy. “The release of more ivory into trade will only serve to stimulate ivory markets which will lead to more poaching and illegal trade. Instead, we need to stop the ivory trade once and for all.”

The Committee meeting was at the beginning of a two-week-long CITES meeting that will take place from June 3-15, where the 171 countries that have signed the treaty will debate proposals to open the international ivory trade further or place a 20-year moratorium on ivory trade. HSI is attending the meeting as an adviser to the Australian delegation and is also represented as an independent observer.

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