Auction of ivory tusks begins in South Africa

November 6th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Nov 6 (DPA) The last and the biggest of four exceptional auctions of ivory stockpiles got underway in South Africa Thursday, with Chinese and Japanese buyers vying to buy up 51 tonnes of the so-called “white gold.”The sale takes place nearly a decade after the last authorized sale of ivory in southern Africa in 1999.

The ivory trade has been banned since 1989 but the 171 members of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have given the go-ahead for four countries with thriving elephant populations to sell off ivory accumulated in their national parks.

In total 108 tonnes of ivory, harvested mainly from elephants that died accidentally or of natural causes in national parks, have been up for grabs. Of the 51 tonnes for sale in Pretoria, 46 tonnes comes from the famous Kruger National Park.

Animal rights activists have opposed the auctions, arguing that all sales of ivory - even legal - stimulate the black market trade in the produce, and consequentially, elephant poaching.

After Thursday’s sale is over, the trade will have to wait another nine years at least before CITES can envisage another sale.

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