Controversial ivory sale to open
Last week Online auction site ebay, under pressure from wildlife activist, banned the sale of ivory all over the world on their websites beginning next year but the first officially sanctioned sale of ivory in southern Africa for almost a decade opens today.
The secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the UN body that sanctioned the sale, says it will monitor trade in China and Japan to make sure companies are not mixing illegally sourced ivory with these legal shipments. Namibia will auction its stockpile of nine tonnes on Tuesday, followed by Botswana's much larger disposal of 44 tonnes on Friday. The South African and Zimbabwean sales take place next week.
Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe will auction more than 100 tonnes of ivory from stockpiles to buyers from China and Japan.
The money raised will go into elephant conservation projects.
Some environment groups say the sales encourage poachers elsewhere in Africa to kill elephants for ivory that can be fed into the illegal trade.
However, data collected by the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic shows that seizures of illegal ivory fell in the years following the last legal sale in 1999.
The ivory trade was banned globally in 1989 because poaching was decimating elephant populations. This and the 1999 sale are the only exceptions. Experts have expressed their deep concern about the opening of sales and fears that it might open the floodgates to additional illegal trade and poaching.