US Sells Out Elephants

Bangkok, Thailand —The Bush Administration today made the embarrassing decision to undermine wildlife conservation in Africa by supporting a dangerous proposal by Namibia to sell elephant ivory.  The decision, taken at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, allows Namibia to trade in ornamental trinkets made of ivory, called "ekipas" for non-commercial purposes.

Adam Roberts, Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based Animal Welfare Institute, said, "Despite historical opposition to the international ivory trade and the overwhelming interest of the American people in protecting elephants from the brutal traffic in their tusks, the US has done the bidding of those who prefer to trade in wild animals than protect them.  Shame on the Bush Administration for allowing this to happen."

While the Government of Namibia, in its amended proposal, has asserted that ekipas are made of ivory, the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry notes that traditionally some also have been "fashioned out of hippopotamus tooth or bone, and less often out of wood or the fruit of the Makalani palm."  The article continues: "Since 1989, a worldwide ban prohibits trade in ivory, so bone or wood ekipas have found favour in Europe."  There is no justification for insisting that ivory ekipas specifically must be available for sale.

"The US hides behind the contention that this trade would be 'non-commercial' tourist souvenirs," observed Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network.  "Namibia receives nearly one million visitors a year.  Conservatively, if only 10% of these tourists bought an ekipas per annum this would equate to two and a half tonnes of annual ivory trade from Namibia—and that doesn't even include the additional amount of ivory lost in the carving process. One can call it non-commercial, but it's still ivory trade.  It's still dangerous"

It is only natural to expect that the Government of Namibia now will actively develop its internal ekipas market and promote a significant export market.  "Pro-ivory trading nations, particularly Namibia, ignore the history of African elephant conservation," Roberts continued, "and the historic demise of the continent's elephants as a result of the ivory trade.  The United States Government has shamefully contributed to the reopening of the international ivory trade and our representatives should return from Bangkok ashamed, with their tails between their legs."

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