South African National Parks (SANParks) held a UN sanctioned auction on November 6th, where they sold off 47 metric tons of stockpiled ivory, earning the government conservation agency US$6.7 million.
[social_buttons]The auction in South Africa marked the end of a “once-off” sale of ivory approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) involving South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Since October, the four countries have participated in a series of legal ivory auctions and have sold over 100 metric tons of ivory, mainly to Chinese and Japanese buyers. All together, the UN sanctioned auctions have earned about US $15 million.
“This is a bid for conservation,” Dr David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, said in his opening speech at the auction. According to CITES regulations, all money earned from the sale must only be used for elephant conservation and community development programs within or adjacent to where elephants live.
But not everyone agrees. “Allowing this exorbitant amount of ivory to flood the market, considering the level of elephant poaching occurring today, is just plain irresponsible,” said Michael Wamithi, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Many conservation organizations and elephant specialists believe that the auction will make it increasingly easy for poachers to flood the market with illegal ivory.
After shipping out all the ivory sold legally in the auctions, the four countries are not allowed to even propose further ivory sales for nine years.
“This impending moratorium on international ivory trade presents a critical opportunity for the international community to focus time and energy on elephant conservation initiatives,” said Jason Bell-Leask, Director of IFAW’s Southern Africa Regional Office.
“We need to be vigilant if we want to succeed in maintaining the integrity of elephant populations in Africa and Asia for coming generations. The future of elephants is clearly in our hands at this point.”
Photo: Frank G. and Frances Carpenter on Wikimedia Commons