African Nations Divided Over Right to Sell Ivory

     JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Africa is divided over whether to sell the ivory of its elephants, whose continent-wide population has plummeted because of poaching.
     Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa will argue for the right to sell ivory at an international wildlife conference that starts Saturday in Johannesburg. They are opposed by about 30 African countries that want to tighten an international ban on the ivory trade amid growing concern over elephants, which have been slaughtered in the tens of thousands in recent years.
     Additional resistance to the pro-trade lobby includes a plan by China, the world’s main ivory consumer, to close its domestic market. The United States has announced a near-total ban on the domestic sale of African elephant ivory.
     Namibia has said it does not expect the Johannesburg talks at the meeting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, to go in its favor. It has argued that it has a large elephant population that often comes into conflict with communities, and that funds from ivory sales can go back into conservation programs.
     South Africa supports Namibian and Zimbabwean proposals for international ivory sales, said Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environment minister. While there is opposition from “some African brothers on the continent,” southern countries with robust elephant populations should not be treated the same way as other nations hit hard by elephant poaching, she told foreign correspondents on Tuesday.
     Some 3,500 delegates are expected to attend the meeting of the CITES group, which has 183 member countries and aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Proposals that are put to a vote require a two-thirds majority to be accepted.
     CITES had allowed a one-off sale of elephant ivory that was completed in 2009. In that sale, ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe went to China and Japan.
     The number of savannah elephants in Africa dropped by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014 because of poaching, according to a recent study.
     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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