Several African countries with some of the world’s largest elephant populations will push this year for looser controls on legal ivory trade, while another group of countries on the continent says more restrictions are the best way to curb the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks.
The dueling proposals reflect divisions within Africa over how to safeguard a species that has been killed in massive numbers by poachers over the past decade and to what extent elephant parts, including ivory, skin and hair, can be sustainably traded as commodities. They pit southern African countries including Botswana and Zimbabwe that say commerce will help them pay to conserve elephants against Kenya, Gabon and others that believe even limited trade fuels demand and drives up illegal killing.
The proposals were released by the office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. They will be discussed when member countries of CITES meet May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the last meeting in Johannesburg in 2016, CITES rejected appeals to relax an international ban on the ivory trade that has been in place for decades.
“There isn’t really any appetite in the international community to agree to this,” said Colman O’Criodain, a wildlife trade expert with the WWF conservation group. He said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that the Sri Lanka meeting should focus on enforcing anti-trafficking measures instead of engaging in “sterile debates” about whether to trade legally. An illegal ivory market in Vietnam and other countries is feeding demand in China, which banned its domestic ivory trade, according to O’Criodain. Meanwhile, the main exit points for African ivory from the continent are the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the Tanzanian region of Zanzibar and to a lesser extent Maputo, Mozambique’s seaside capital, he said.
A southern African proposal said Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have about 256,000 elephants, or more than half of the total estimate for Africa. Protecting elephants as human populations increase and wildlife habitats shrink comes at a big cost, and a closely regulated trade in government-owned stocks of ivory will help to alleviate the burden, it said. “CITES has acted as an inhibitor and not an enabler of progress,” the proposal said.
Zambia made a similar proposal, saying elephants are competing with people in rural areas for resources and that Zambians would be more tolerant if they see “economic returns earned from the sustainable use of elephants.”
1. ivory n.
象牙；牙質 (xiang4 ya2; ya2 zhi2)
2. tusk n.
象牙；獠牙 (xiang4 ya2; liao2 ya2)
3. poacher n.
偷獵者 (tou1 lie4 zhe3)
4. convention n.
公約 (gong1 yue1)
5. trafficking n.
非法販運 (fei1 fa3 fan4 yun4)
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