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Heated debate expected at world wildlife protection conference

This emerged from a press briefing presented in Johannesburg by three researchers from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

The three researchers argued that there is not enough incentive to conserve elephants.

The conference is scheduled for September 24 to October 5 this year. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia have made a joint a proposal to have a ban on international trade on ivory to be lifted.

Ross Harvey, a senior researcher with SAIIA, said the three countries have slim chances of having their proposal approved by the CITES Standing Committee.

He said, “The chances of the three countries to have the ban lifted on international trade on ivory is next to nil.”

The best possible result is that there will be an agreement to have the domestic market shut down, which might alienate these countries, according to Harvey.

Harvey said there is a possibility that some might opt to leave CITES, but this is unlikely since there are other benefits for other species other than ivory.

Zimbabwe and Namibia have also made a bid to have the elephants completely removed from the CITES protection altogether.

A majority of sixty-six percent is required to adopt a proposal.

On the other hand, 29 African countries have also made a coalition to seek to end the ivory trade altogether. The coalition is also calling for the closure of the domestic ivory markets.

The international ban on ivory trade was introduced in 1989. The African Elephant Coalition is calling for the destruction of existing ivory stockpile.

Harvey said, “Some are piling up stock waiting to hear what will CITES decide. The question is why should you keep stock piles of ivory?”

Another senior researcher from SAIIA, Yu-Shan Wu, said the commitment made by the U.S. and China in September 2015 will boost the fight against illegal trade in ivory.

Wu said it is necessary for the people to be educated why the ban is imposed.

She said, “Some countries in Southeast Asia worship elephants and they have a religious significance on them.”

Wu, a South African of Chinese descent, said China has shown commitment to fighting illegal trade on ivory by discussing it with Africa last December during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit.

She said some conservation organizations have also been educating the Chinese people about the importance against illegal trade in ivory.

She said Chinese celebrities have also been involved in sending messages against illegal ivory trade.

She praised Botswana as a good example of using local communities to manage natural resources like elephants.

She said they use the natural resources for tourism and get the incentives from that.

Africa has lost over 27,000 elephants annually since 2012, according to the Elephant Census.

Elephants will be on the agenda on the CITES conference.

Many proposals will be considered to reach a consensus at the end.



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