Environmentalists warn against reopening legal ivory trade
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Environmentalists warn against reopening legal ivory trade

BANGKOK, Sept. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The number of African elephants will fall down dramatically if a world conference on wildlife trafficking adopts a proposal to reopen the legal ivory trade, an international animal rights group warned here on Monday evening. "Studies showed that any legalized trading of ivory increases poaching and enables laundering of contraband ivory," said a statement released here by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The debate over resumption of a legal ivory trade has gained heat with the 13th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to be held from Oct. 2 to 16 in Bangkok. At the conference, the CITES Standing committee will decide whether Botswana, Namibia and South Africa can sell off their registered stocks as agreed at the previous conference and Namibia will propose an annual quota for ivory trade.

Pros to the proposal of enlarged legal ivory trade said the resumption of the trade will provide much-needed cash to many African countries that lack financial support for economic and social development. Cons, such as the IFAW, noted poaching of wild elephants will deteriorate with the resumption of legal ivory trade, for it's difficulty to track the origin of ivory for lack of efficient trade controls. "Ivory trade controls are far too expensive to be realized as long as some legal trade exists," said Grace Gabriet, deputy director of Wildlife Habitat Protection of IFAW. "Even countries with advanced enforcement capacity, like the United Kingdom, aren't capable of controlling their ivory market, how can we expect developing countries to do better in this way?" she told reporters at a press conferences.

Taking the Democratic Republic of Congo's Garamba National Parkas example, the IFAW predicted that if poaching trends increase due to reopening ivory trade, in less than 18 months, elephants in this site will cease to exist. On the other hand, reopening of the ivory trade will not bring in cash to the less-developed countries as expected. For a package of 100 ivory cylinder, materials for Japanese favored name seal, an African hunter can get only less than 50 US dollars from a local dealer, but the "street value" of the same package in Japan can reach as high as 20,000 dollars.

"Africans receive less than 1 percent of the profits from this illegal business," said an IFAW article. "The other 99 percent is deposited in the banks of the Far East." In a bid to save its elephant from poaching, Kenya will lead some central and western African countries in the conference to propose a 20-year moratorium of any trade of raw and worked ivory, if the coming conference approves Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to proceed with their trading of stocked ivory.

Kenya, which lost about 85 percent of its elephant population due to poaching before 1989, has seen its elephants increasing from 60,000 to more than 100,000 due to a total ban on ivory trade effective in 1989. According to statistics provided by the IFAW, poaching was the main cause for the decrease of African elephants from 1.3 million in 1979 to as few as 400,000 today. About 100 proposals and resolutions to protect various species of plants and animals will be discussed at this year's CITES meeting in Bangkok, which will be attended by delegations from 166nations.

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