United Press International
November 10, 1999
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, South Africa's environment minister
wants permission to sell its stockpile of elephants' tusks and hides
as well as rhinoceros products and use the profits for conservation
programs. A London newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, reported Wednesday
that Minister Valli Moosa will seek permission from next year's
conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species. Animal rights groups have already condemned any such a
one-time auctions, saying any sale of elephant products leads to
a resurgence of the illegal ivory trade and large-scale poaching.
Earlier this year at a meeting in Geneva the conference granted
similar requests by neighboring Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Namibia was authorized to make a one-time sale of 13.8 tons, Zimbabwe
20 tons and, once it has complied with safeguards, Botswana 25 tons.
According to the South African environment agency, Kruger National
Park has 30 tons of elephant tusks and 152 tons of hides from a
30-year program of culling herds for environmental management. Moosa
said the country could raise some $4 million by selling its ivory
and hide stockpile and that the money could start a new elephant
management program and control poaching. Moosa says the conventional
estimate of the optimum elephant population for Kruger is about
7,000. But he says that since a moratorium on culling was imposed,
the total at Kruger is close to 10, 000.
The New York Times reported in February that ten years after the
international trade in ivory was banned, more than 21,000 pieces
of ivory were offered for sale to tourists visiting Egypt. That
report was based on a survey by Esmond Bradley Martin, a leading
analyst of the trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn. At the time,
the Nairobi-based Martin reported many tourists illegally brought
the ivory -- much of it small, carved ornaments -- back to Europe.
Imports and exports of ivory had been banned by the endangered species
convention, under the authority of the United Nations, to halt an
alarming fall in elephant numbers. The convention has since agreed
to a limited sale of ivory stocks to Japan under strict controls,
but all other international trade is forbidden.