18 July 2008
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) standing committee has authorised a decision taken last year for a once-off sale of ivory, a decision that has been welcomed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are now authorised to make a once off sale of a total of 108 tons of government-owned ivory, the department said in a statement on Wednesday.
The following quantities of raw ivory have been approved for sale: Botswana’s 43 682.91kg, Namibia’s 9 209.68kg, South Africa’s 51 121.8kg and Zimbabwe’s 3 755.55kg.
China has been agreed to as the designated import country for the ivory. Japan had already been allowed to import ivory in 2006.
Both countries stated that they would closely monitor their domestic markets, said the department, adding that South Africa would send a delegation to both China and Japan to assess their enforcement capacity and ensure their compliance with CITES regulations.
Department spokesperson Mava Scott said the delegation’s vist was a step to satisfy the South African government about the integrity of the accredited buyers systems as it relates to the transaction.
“Thereafter, we will deliberate on the approach for the method of sale of the ivory, as the accreditation of China as a purchaser will trigger dynamic market forces which would not have been possible with Japan alone,” he said. “The bargaining is likely to be beneficial to South Africa.”
Benefiting elephants and communities
All the proceeds from the sale of the ivory would be used exclusively for elephant conservation and for the benefit of local communities living side-by-side with elephants the department added.
The decision to allow the once-off sale of ivory follows the department’s decision to lift a moratorium on the culling of elephants enforced in 1995. The decision came in to effect as of 1 May 2008, and emerged out of the in-depth consultative process with ecologists, scientists and the public at large.
Speaking at the announcement in late February 2008, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the necessary amendments to the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations would be published for public comments on 29 February 2008.
“Our department has recognised the need to maintain culling as management option, but has taken steps to ensure that this option be the option of last resort that is acceptable only under strict conditions,” he said.