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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Controversy dominated the opening of the conference"
 real 28k

The BBC's Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi
"Kenya and India are at odds with four southern African countries"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 April, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Ivory debate splits conference
Ivory stockpiles
President Moi says ivory auctions have had a negative impact
The controversy over ivory trading dominated the opening of the 11th conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Nairobi on Monday.

The split is broadly between East African delgates who want a total ban on ivory sales, and Southern Africans who want to continue with last year's relaxation of the ban.

The host of the conference, Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, opened the session with a plea for a total ban in ivory trade until elephant poaching can be controlled.

"No ivory trade should be permitted under any circumstances until an effective monitoring capacity is established and is operational" he told delegates.

We in Kenya see evidence that the illegal killing of elephants has increased

President Moi

Four Southern African countries have argued, however, that a strictly controlled trade in stockpiled ivory can benefit elephants if the proceeds are channelled back into conservation.

Tirngeni Erkana, head of the Namibian delegation, says their stockpile comes from natural mortality and legal slaughter to cull herds.

Namibia wants to sell two tonnes of ivory per year from its reserves of 35-36 tonnes.

Why should we be punished after we have taken effective management of our elephants?

Tirngeni Erkana

"We have kept the level of poaching to a minimum" he said.

"On average we lose two or three elephants a year - it is a question of monitoring the system."

South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe have also submitted ivory sales proposals to the conference.

Shrinking herds

Elephant experts in Kenya say the elephant population shrank from 1.3 million when hunting was banned in 1979, to the current 650,000, mainly due to poaching in the years preceding the total ban in 1989.

The 10th Cites conference in 1997 decided to lift the total ban to permit a limited trade in stockpiled ivory in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Delegates were lobbied by anti-ivory protesters
Delegates were lobbied by anti-ivory protesters

The condition for the one-off auction was that measures to combat poaching be put in place.

But President Moi said in his address that monitoring has not been effective and elephant deaths have increased as a result.

India has backed Kenya's request to place elephants back onto Appendix 1, which bans all trade in the species.

Suresh Sharma, head of the Indian delegation, said India's problem is particularly serious because of the 100 to 1 female to male ratio in the Indian herd.

Among Asian elephants, only the males have tusks.

Both nations say allowing trade in any elephant products, such as leather, increases poaching.

Controversial proposals

Although the future of the larger species such as elephants is expected to dominate the conference, President Moi spoke up also for animals such as apes, birds, reptiles and insects.

He said that the resolutions reached at the conference would have a major impact on them too, and that trade in smaller endangered species had to be strictly regulated.
Minke whaling ship
Japan continues to hunt minke whales for "scientific" purposes

The 2,500 delegates from 151 countries will, together with non-governmental organisations, consider proposals affecting controls or trading bans on more than 60 species.

These include the Indian tiger, the bottlenose dolphin, the Quince monitor lizard, the rattlesnake and the ornamental tarantula.

One of the most controversial is the proposal by Norway and Japan to relax the ban on the hunting of minke and grey whales, whose populations they say have sufficiently recovered to allow limited trade.

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace, which floated a life-size whale-shaped balloon outside the conference site, fiercely opposes the move.

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.

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

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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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