GENEVA (AP) - A call to resume the legal ivory trade for the first time in nearly a quarter-century as one means of fighting the recent rise in elephant poaching in Africa was expected to dominate the debate at a U.N. conservation meeting that began Monday.
The proposal was put forward in a report commissioned by the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a treaty overseen by the U.N. Environment Program in Geneva. It would set up a centralized system to allow for the sale of ivory from elephants that either died naturally or as a result of trophy hunting, or were considered a threat or culled for ecological reasons.
This is the first time such a proposal has been made since a global ban on ivory went into effect in 1989. That ban halted widespread poaching but it has steadily worsened since 2004 amid Asian demand for ivory chopsticks, statues and jewelry.
"Given the present rise in illegal killing of elephants in West, Central and East Africa, it is clear that current measures are not containing the present upsurge in the illegal trade in ivory," the report concludes. "The tendency to ascribe this increase to the sale of stockpiled ivory in 2008 diverts attention away from the far more serious problems relating to the inability of African countries to invest in protecting their elephants —I thinjk an observation that begs the question of what incentives are there for them to do so?"
The proposal — which would still need to be voted on at the CITES meeting next year in Bangkok— was expected to set off a fierce debate especially among African delegates.
Southern African countries, where the majority of elephants are, want some form of legal trade to help pay for their conservation efforts and sell off already growing ivory stocks. Central and East African countries have in the past opposed any legal trade, fearing it will undermine conservation efforts and further bolster the illegal trade.
Environmentalists, too, have come out against the proposal because they argue that the reasons behind it — that legal trade would help reduce ivory prices, and thus demand — remain unproven.
A proposal for one-off sales by Tanzania and Zambia at the 2010 CITES meeting in Doha was defeated.
Mary Rice, executive director of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency, said her research advocacy group, which has campaigned against the illegal trade for two decades, "remains deeply concerned that any more 'legal' sales — or discussion of 'legal' sales — of ivory will further stimulate the ivory market, supporting the perception that international trade has resumed and increasing demand for illegal ivory."
The rise in rhino poaching will also be on the agenda with several measures to tackle the illegal hunting, mostly in South Africa. Among the issues will how better regulate the trophy hunting trade and making greater use of DNA technologies to trace the horns that are seized to help convict the poachers and traffickers.
A report by the advocacy group WWF International released at the Geneva meeting found that Vietnam was "the major destination" for rhino horns trafficked from South Africa, where 448 rhinos were poached last year.
In Asia, rhino horn can fetch the equivalent of U.S. street values for cocaine. It is crushed and consumed by people in Asia who believe — wrongly, doctors say — that it can cure diseases including cancer, fever and even hangovers.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
From the roads to the rails, to the skies above, everything is on the table as the state reveals its biggest transportation challenges.
Advocates for homeless young people in Connecticut say the state has a lack of available safe housing for young people in crisis and say more and better housing is needed.
Former IBM executive Nicholas Donofrio of Ridgefield has been named the new chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education.
Exercise is good for your body, but can also be good for your mind. That's why educators at one Connecticut school are making it part of students weekly routine before the school day even starts.
Members of the Newtown Action Alliance, the Newtown Foundation and family members of gun violence will gather today at the National Cathedral in Washington DC for a vigil honoring all victims of gun violence.
Someone in New Haven county is going to be $1 million richer after they check their ticket for Wednesday night's Powerball drawing.
Danbury police have charged a teenager with murder and assault in the stabbing death of a 19-year-old man during a melee last weekend.
Police are on the scene of a two-vehicle accident involving a school bus in North Haven this morning.
A Manchester police report says male motorists were more likely than women to be pulled over by police last year and black motorists were overrepresented compared with white people behind the wheel.
Firefighters responded to a garage fire in Norwalk during the overnight hours Thursday.