African Countries Continue to Fight Over the Ban of Ivory Sales
The African Elephant may be one of the largest animals on the planet, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its own share of problems. Poaching has been on the rise again and now they face another issue: African countries need to decide whether or not to allow ivory sales for a limited amount of time.
As a migratory animal, the elephant population varies throughout the different African countries; some countries have strong populations, while others are decreasing at an alarming rate. Tanzania and Zambia are 2 that are considered to have healthy populations. They’ve already started to take advantage of the “fact” by asking the CITES (Convention on International Trade in International Species) conference for permission to sell 90 and 22 tons of ivory, respectively. This call for legalizing ivory sales comes from a 1989 ban on the ivory market. The ban was done to protect the elephants and rhinos, but every so often certain exemptions have been allowed and this has fueled a war between the different countries: those who want exemptions from the ban and those who want to enforce the ban.
The last CITES conference that was held led to a compromise between the nations: the ban would still remain in effect for at least 9 more years, but Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allowed a one-time exemption in order to sell 108 tons to buyers in China and Japan.
Did you know that in the past millions of elephants used to roam across Africa but only 400,000 still exist today? Their numbers have been cut by more than half and more than half of their current numbers are strewn throughout southern Africa. The rest—a paltry few thousand—can be found in central, eastern and western Africa. In some countries, such as Burundi, Gambia, Mauritania and Sierra Leone, they’ve been completely wiped out.
Kenyan’s are taking a hard stand in enforcing the ban on ivory sales and it’s really no wonder: the number of elephants killed by poachers went from 47 in 2007 to 214 in 2009. That’s quite a jump in 2 years time. According to Kenyan Wildlife Minister, Noah Wekesa:
“Our position is that the international community should sustain the ban of selling ivory and rhino horns. By perpetuation of poaching, we will eliminate these animals.”
Tanzania, however, has a different point of view. Authorities claim that their elephant population increased from 55,000 in 1989 to 137,000 in 2006—nearly tripling in size. What’s more, their request to sell more ivory received a counterattack (of sorts) from seven African countries that oppose the sales of ivory. This counter amendment requests that the ban be extended for another 20 years and also asks to place a ban on any sales outside of southern Africa.
If you’re wondering what the Tanzanian government wrote in their request submitted to CITES, take a gander at this excerpt:
“Elephants are increasingly becoming a nuisance to poor farmers who are progressively becoming opponents to their conservation. The sale of ivory seized or collected from animals that have died a natural death is the best way of making the population aware of the value of the animal.”
That doesn’t seem right to me. Collecting ivory from an animal that has died of natural causes is certainly different from poaching, I’ll grant them that. But once these poor farmers become more aware of the “value of the animal”—farmers who seem to be having problems with the elephants in the first place—wouldn’t that push a rise in illegal poaching? They could wait around for an elephant to die naturally or they can be involved in illegal killings and reap the benefit sooner than later. I wonder which they will choose…
The African Elephant is not yet an endangered species but it still needs your help. The African Wildlife Foundation offers animal adoption packages. One of them is for the well-known elephant, Oltupai. This elephant was once believed to be dead (killed) but luckily showed up some time later, miles south of his original location. If you are feeling more generous than that, you can adopt an entire herd of African Elephants!
By Heidi Marshall