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Rise in poaching pushes CITES to vote ‘no’ to ivory sales

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has pleased conservationists with its decision to not allow the one-off sales of ivory from government stockpiles in Tanzania and Zambia given the recent rise in elephants poaching in Africa.

“It’s victory for conservationists world wide as CITES today voted no the proposal presented by Tanzania to weaken the 21-year ban on ivory sales. Many countries do not think that Tanzania can manage to sell ivory without it leading to a dramatic upsurge in elephant killings, after all, the country has been unable to control illicit trade in ivory and elephant poaching,” Executive Director of WildlifeDirect Paula Kahumbu wrote in a blog on the decision.

While the ivory trade has been banned since 1989, two one-time sales have gone ahead in the past: 1999 and 2008. Many conservationists believe that these past sales led to increasing demand for ivory products—illegal or not—causing an uptick in poaching.

Last year, 25 tons of illegal ivory was confiscated from an estimated 2,500 elephants, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group. Tanzania had hoped to sell 80.5 tons of ivory and Zambia 21 tons.

The decision comes after a number of disappointments for conservationists at the CITES meeting, including striking down monitoring of the coral trade and a vote against a ban on the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. The latter decision caused marine biologist Jennifer Jacquet to describe it as “another failure to see fish as wildlife” in her blog Guilty Planet. She notes that less than 5 percent of the species protected by CITES are marine species.

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