Ivory Trade Suspended

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

African nations have reached a compromise agreement on the trade of the ivory tusks of elephants. Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe agreed to delay ivory sales for at least two years. The agreement would continue until an effective system is in place to prevent the widespread killing of elephants.

The compromise was reached among the four southern African nations, Kenya and India. It was announced shortly before delegates from one-hundred-fifty nations were to debate proposals to reopen the trade in elephants' ivory tusks. The delegates are part of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES (SIGH-tees). They met last month in Nairobi, Kenya.

The four southern African nations had requested approval for limited ivory trade. But Kenya, India and most wildlife groups strongly opposed the move. They wanted a ban on all trade in elephant ivory, skins and meat. The four southern African nations, however, will be permitted to trade in elephant skins and meat. That trade is not considered to have a serious effect on the elephant population.

In the Nineteen-Eighties, half of Africa's elephants were killed for their valuable tusks. The killings stopped only when the CITES committee declared a total ban on the trade in Nineteen-Eighty-Nine. Elephant populations have since recovered, especially in southern African nations.

Last year, CITES approved an experimental sale that permitted Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell five-million dollars of its ivory supply to Japan.

At the recent CITES meeting, the three countries and South Africa requested approval for yearly ivory sales. They said their elephant populations are large enough to permit limited sales. They said such sales would help finance protected areas for the elephants.

But Kenya and India said the ivory sale last year led to an increase in the illegal elephant trade. And they said other parts of Africa were affected. Southern African nations dispute those claims.

The opposing sides agreed to halt all ivory sales at least until the next CITES meeting in two or three years. Between now and then, they plan to set up effective systems to help prevent the widespread killing of elephants and observe the number of elephants being killed for their tusks.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bill White.

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