CITES approves two ivory importers

10 October 2008

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) standing committee has confirmed Japan and China as suitable importing countries for South Africa’s stockpiled ivory, says the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

South Africa has been authorised by CITES to make a once-off sale of 51 121 metric tons of raw ivory.

“The announcement follows the conclusion of a trip to both countries by officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and South African National Parks,” the department said in a statement this week.

“This accreditation follows the CITES standing committee decision that both countries have sufficient measures in place to prevent re-exporting of the ivory as agreed by the CITES conference held in the Netherlands in July 2007.”

The department decided in July to send a delegation to both countries to assess enforcement capacity, the ivory registration process, and general CITES compliance, in order to satisfy the South African government. The officials went on their trip to the two countries between 22 September and 2 October.

Artworks and musical instruments

In China, ivory is used primarily in the ivory carving industry for cultural artworks, while in Japan the ivory is used largely for the production of musical instruments and hanko seals, which are used to sign official documents. Both countries also produce figurines, jewellery, and ornaments from ivory.

Both China and Japan have computerised registration systems in place, which entails the registration of tusks and ivory products.

In China all products have identifying certificates which provide a description of the item and indicate that it cannot be exported. Similarly in Japan, an identifying CITES sticker accompanies all worked ivory pieces and a registration certificate is issued for whole tusks.

Ivory cannot be re-exported

Information is readily available at airports and stores selling ivory products to inform the public and tourists that ivory cannot be re-exported.

“The delegation was informed that China and Japan have strict enforcement and control at ports of entry and exit. This includes advanced ivory detection equipment,” the department said.

“Both countries have been included under category I of the CITES legislative process. This means that CITES has approved their national legislation on the implementation of CITES as fulfilling the requirements of CITES.”

Harsh penalties

In addition, the CITES cecretariat reported that China’s legislation contains some of the most severe criminal sanctions for CITES-related violations of all parties and the courts have not hesitated to impose very substantial upon those who attempt to smuggle ivory into mainland China.

Both China and Japan have also met one of the conditions of sale, which stipulates that potential buyers must be registered with a national association which has been registered with the CITES authorities in that country.

“South Africa has familiarised itself with the enforcement capacity and compliance with CITES regulations in both China and Japan,” said the department’s deputy director-general for biodiversity and conservation, Fundisile Mketeni.

SAinfo reporter

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