Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ban on International Ivory Trade Approved

AFP-"African Nations Strike Landmark Ivory Trade Ban"
Japan Today-"China Needs to Act on Illegal Ivory Trade: EIA"
Species Survival Network-"China and Japan Compete for Southern Ivory Exports, Conservationists Fear Renewed Slaughter"Ebay to Ban Global Ivory Trade on Its Sites"

Today a United Nations forum approved a nine-year ban on the international ivory trade, in what appears to be at least a temporary resolution of a contentious issue that has involved fierce debate amongst African countries, (re)sparked an East Asian rivalry, and also resulted in a voluntary moratorium on ivory trade by online auction giant Ebay.

The impetus for approval of the ban was a surge in poaching that threatens the existence of African and Asian elephants. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 elephants have been killed every year in furtherance of the illegal ivory trade. The African elephant population has been particularly hard hit; the population is now down to a mere 500,000 animals.

The decision was hailed by the Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement to which 171 nations have agreed. Additionally, 20 African nations, led by Kenya and Mali, had originally approached CITES with a proposal for a 20-year ban on the international ivory trade. While Africa is the source of the ivory illegally traded, East Asia—and China and Japan in particular—is the primary destination market.

Those who criticize the ban and limited sales programs claim that these efforts only drive the market further underground and do little to stem poaching. Ban proponents note that when bans have been in effect the number of illegally killed elephants plummets and view this approach as the most effective way of preserving the species.

Before the ban takes effect there will be a final “one-off” sale of ivory to Japan, which is the only country authorized under CITES to purchase ivory. This situation has caused dissatisfaction on the part of China, the world’s other top ivory consumer.

The justification for favoring ivory trade with Japan and not China is rooted in the assertion that there are better regulatory controls in Japan, according to CITES. While conservationists agree that China’s controls are lax, they claim that Japan’s regulatory system is weak as well and assert that permitting any trade in ivory serves only to exacerbate the problem.

Interestingly, the internet is a growing venue for illegal ivory trade. Earlier this month, the auction giant Ebay agreed to ban all international sales of ivory on its website.


What do you think is the best approach: banning the trade? Reduced sales? A different approach?

Do you think it is proper for one nation to be excluded from participating in trade when another nation is permitted to do so? How can such decisions be made without risking political favoritism?

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