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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The most important meeting held in a decade"
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Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Ivory to dominate Nairobi debate
Nairobiu demonstration
Delegates were lobbied by anti-ivory trade protesters
The fate of the African elephant is likely to dominate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which opens in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday.

Whales and whale products are also high on the agenda.

Some countries want to permit trade in some ivory
"As the biggest land and sea mammals, people identify with them strongly," one Cites official said. "People get very emotional when their survival is seen as being at risk."

Delegates from 150 countries will discuss possible changes to trade controls on a wide range of plants and trees during the two-week meeting.

They will hear calls for a further sale of stockpiled ivory from elephants that have died naturally.

Last year, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia were permitted a one-off sale to Japan.

But opponents of the measure, including Kenya, say that a partial lifting of the ivory ban last year led to an increase in elephant poaching, and should not be repeated.

Whale ban

Another contentious proposal would allow a softening of the global ban on trading in grey and minke whales.

Minke whaling ship
Japan continues to hunt minke whales for "scientific" purposes

Norway and Japan want to overturn the international ban on trade in whale products, but environmental pressure group Greenpeace, which floated a life-size whale-shaped balloon outside the conference site, fiercely opposes the move.

The UK, Australia and the United States will put forward measures to protect white and basking sharks from commercial exploitation.

In another controversial proposal, Cuba wants the right to sell the shells of the endangered Hawksbill turtle, the smallest of six species of marine turtle.

In all, some 60 species - including the Indian tiger, the bottlenose dolphin, the Quince monitor lizard, the rattlesnake and the ornamental tarantula - will be discussed at the conference.

Amendments to the regulations covering a species require a two-thirds majority.

Cites was set up in Washington in 1973, and the Nairobi conference is its 11th assembly.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Africa
Ivory trade: Horns of a dilemma
29 Mar 00 | Middle East
Egypt seizes record ivory haul
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Torture chamber' agony of China's bears
10 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Ivory ban lifted
09 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Shoot an elephant, save a species
08 Sep 99 | Africa
A jumbo-sized dilemma in Zambia
16 Jul 99 | Africa
Japan imports African ivory
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