By Patti Strand
The November 2002 CITES conference in Santiago, Chile, brought victory to supporters of limited sales of ivory in several African nations but declined to lift restrictions on hunting some whale species.
CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, governs the sale of animals listed as endangered or threatened. Signers of the treaty meet every few years to discuss adding or subtracting species from oversight.
In 1997, CITES members gave Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana the right to sell portions of their stockpiles to Japan in a tightly controlled one-time sale. These three nations, South Africa, and Namibia returned to the conference this year with requests for additional sales. Each country has a stockpile of ivory gathered from dead animals and from legal killing, and each asked for permission to sell portions of these stockpiles, allow tourists to buy carved ivory trinkets and take them back home, expand trade in hides and leather goods, and increase trade in hunting trophies. All money for the sale of ivory was earmarked for elephant conservation and enforcement of anti-poaching laws, and trade in hides, leather goods, and art items and expenditures of hunting parties would also help raise the standard of living in poor villages.
Ivory sales have been banned since 1989 in an attempt to decrease poaching of elephants for their tusks. Since that time, populations of elephants have exploded in several southern African nations, and the animals are destroying their own habitat and damaging crops, flattening homes, and even killing people in the countryside. In addition to dealing with this destruction, governments have collected a stockpile of ivory from poachers and from animals that were legally killed or died naturally.
Shortly after this year’s vote, the Boston Globe reported that South Africa’s Kruger National Park has a population of more than 10,000 elephants on land that can support about 7000 of the great beasts. Furthermore, the Globe reported, the herd is increasing by 700 births per year, a population growth that has triggered discussion of controlled culls to protect the diversity of the environment in the park. More....