Namibia can't sell N$125m ivory stockpile

27 August 2019 | Tourism

The international trade in elephant ivory has been rejected in Switzerland at the World Wildlife Conference, known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe proposed that they should be allowed a one-time sale of government-owned ivory stockpiles, followed by a six-year moratorium.

The proposal was, however, defeated with 101 countries opposing it and 23 countries in support, with 18 abstaining.

Countries also rejected a motion that would have put all southern African elephants on Appendix I, offering the highest protection level, which would have banned all trade.

The trade proposal sought to amend the annotation to the Appendix II listing of African elephants, to allow the trade in “registered government-owned stocks” of ivory to trading partners verified by the secretariat in, consultation with the standing committee.

According to a report by the Elephant Trade information System, Namibia is a source country for illegally-worked ivory, while the 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature African Elephant Status Report documented an increase in poaching since 2006 in the Zambezi Region.

Namibia recently expressed concern over the cost and security implications of holding large ivory stocks and reiterated the country's stance towards legal international trade of ivory, from which the proceeds – N$125 million in Namibia's case - would be utilised to support elephant conservation and rural conservation programmes.

Last year, the environment ministry said that the current size of Namibia's ivory stockpile is 69 391.71kg (69.4 tonnes) valued at N$125.48 million.

Out of the 69.4 tonnes, a total quantity of 29 964.64 kg (29.9 tonnes) represented legal ivory and 39 427.07 kg (39.4 tonnes) illegal ivory.

The legal ivory stockpile is valued at N$54.2 million while the illegal ivory is worth N$71.3 million.

Kenya and several other African countries opposed the proposal to lift the ban on ivory sales, arguing that even restricted, legal sales would fuel greater demand for elephant ivory on the international market. The African Elephant Coalition, representing 32 African countries, opposed any ivory sales.

Zambia also abandoned a bid to sell its ivory stockpiles as part of a proposal to downlist its elephants to Appendix II, which would have loosened protection for the animals.

The European Union was among those saying the move did not meet “biological criteria”.

All African elephants were given the highest listing in 1989, but the protection was weakened in 1997 and 2000, when populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were downlisted to Appendix II - a less endangered status - to allow the sale of ivory stockpiles to Japan and China.

The latest decision means no international commercial ivory trade is permitted.