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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Ivory trade: Horns of a dilemma
Cites delegates are expected to lock horns over ivory question
Delegates are expected to lock horns over ivory question
Ahead of a conference on endangered species, the BBC's Martin Wilson has found evidence of an escalation in poaching and the illegal trade in ivory throughout Africa.

 Click here to watch

The international community remains deeply divided over the future of ivory sales.

As delegates from 151 countries prepare to meet in Nairobi for the CITES conference (UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the row over ivory looks set to dominate the proceedings. HAVE YOUR SAY Kenya is leading a group of countries who want to see a complete ban on any ivory trade, while Zimbabwe and South Africa are calling for some trade to be approved.

Ivory trade
Elephant population halved during 1970s and 1980s
Ivory trade collapsed after CITES ban in 1990
Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana permitted in 1997 to sell raw ivory to Japan
South Africa seeking to sell its raw ivory stocks
Kenya and India support complete ivory ban
At the last CITES conference in Harare in 1997, delegates approved - as an experiment - a one-off sale of 50 tonnes of ivory from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana - known collectively as the ZNB group.

Ivory was to be sold under strict supervision and even then, only to one country, Japan.

The southern African countries say the sale was a success and now want permission to sell more.

However, Kenya says that the sale has stimulated the illegal ivory trade and the illegal killing of elephants.

Poaching escalates

Paula Kahumbu, scientific adviser to the Kenya Wildlife Service, says that poaching has increased in Kenya's largest national park.

"In Tsavo East, our main stronghold, where 30% of our elephants are, just in the last year alone, we had a five times increase in the amount of poaching. That was purely for ivory," she says.

Cites permits one-off sale of ivory to Japan
CITES permits one-off sale of ivory to Japan
"We think that the re-opening of the trade in ivory is premature."

Daphne Sheldrick agrees. She runs Africa's only elephant orphanage where there are more orphans than ever before.

Ms Sheldrick blames the poachers.

"The fact that we have 11 now is a result of the escalation of poaching," she says.

"To me, it is indicative of a lot of problems for the elephants."

The Kenyans say that there has been a four-fold increase in the amount of ivory which they have seized over the last year as well as an escalation in the war against the poachers.

Kenyan rangers practice 'shoot-to-kill' policy
Kenyan rangers practice shoot-to-kill policy
Ms Kahumbu believes that any further ivory trade will jeopardise the viability of Kenya's elephant populations.

"In some areas in Northern Kenya where you have got populations reduced to a few thousand, any further pressure on them might prevent these populations growing," she warns.

Zimbabwe's elephant population numbers more than 70,000 - which is three times as many as Kenya.

Simon Moyo, the environment minister and a supporter of ivory trade , says that there is no evidence of an increase in poaching or the illegal trade.

"We are satisfied that the measures we have taken to conserve and preserve the elephant are satisfactory," he says.

Trade in ivory benefits conservation by giving the poor people who live alongside the elephant ... a better life

Zimbabwe's Environment Minister Simon Moyo
"To us, trade in ivory benefits conservation by giving the poor people who live alongside the elephant, or the wildlife as such, a better life," he says.

"And of course also giving them that incentive to preserve the elephant."

Ms Kahumbu has been urging CITES delegates to act responsibly.

"There are supposed to be precautionary principles," she says.

"We are not supposed to be trading in animals. If there is any doubt - and in the case of the elephants - there's huge amount of doubt. "

Crucial votes

The European Union has not yet decided which way to vote.

The British Government is pressing for all the proposals to be dropped. That would mean no further trade in ivory could go ahead.

Taking aim: Hunter targets elephant in Zimbabwe
Taking aim: Hunter targets elephant in Zimbabwe
Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation says that Britain holds a pivotal position in Europe.

"If it says it will vote with Kenya, it could sway the whole of Europe," he says.

"82% of the British public want a ban. 129 MPs say they support a ban and numerous African countries say they are concerned.

"It's not just a case of the rich countries telling the rest of the world what to do."

The BBC documentary Ivory Wars, will be broadcast on BBC1 Wednesday, 5 April at 2220

Should the ivory trade be restricted - or completely banned? Should limited trade in ivory be allowed for conservation or other reasons?

Put your questions to our panellists:

John Hutton is the Director of the Africa Resources Trust and favours the trade of ivory

Paula Kahumbu is an elephantologist with the Kenyan Wildlife Service. She campaigns against the ivory trade.

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See also:

29 Mar 00 | Middle East
Egypt seizes record ivory haul
10 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Ivory ban lifted
09 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Shoot an elephant, save a species
02 Jan 00 | Africa
Poachers killed in Kenya
08 Sep 99 | Africa
A jumbo-sized dilemma in Zambia
16 Jul 99 | Africa
Japan imports African ivory
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