* Two countries sought exception from global ivory trade ban
* But were outvoted at CITES meeting
* Failed to convince others exports would help elephants
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 3 Namibia and Zimbabwe failed
on Monday to convince a U.N. body on Monday that they should be
allowed to export ivory - something they had argued would
protect rather than further endanger Africa's elephants.
Member countries of the U.N.'s Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted overwhelmingly to
reject the proposals to sell tusks seized from poachers and
taken from animals that had died naturally or been put down by
"African elephants are in steep decline across much of the
continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any
legal trade in ivory would complicate efforts to conserve them,"
said Ginette Hemley, the head of the CITES delegation for
conservation group WWF.
"It could offer criminal syndicates new avenues to launder
poached ivory, undermining law enforcement," she said.
A global ban on ivory sales was imposed in 1989 to stem a
wave of poaching, but CITES allowed Botswana, Namibia and
Zimbabwe to sell stockpiles to Japan in 1999. They were joined
by South Africa in 2008 in a sale to China and Japan.
Namibia and cash-strapped Zimbabwe had both argued that the
sales were needed to raise money for conservation and that their
populations have been stable or growing, triggering conflict
with poor rural farmers.
Zimbabwe said it had a 70 tonne ivory stockpile estimated to
be worth $35 million.
Other African nations, such as Kenya, are strongly opposed
to any reopening of the ivory trade on the grounds that it will
stimulate demand and threaten its own elephants.
In the secret ballots, Namibia's proposal lost 73 to 27,
Zimbabwe's 80 to 21, both far short of the two-thirds required
"Ivory belongs to the elephants and ivory is worth more on a
live animal rather than a dead animal," Kenya's environment
minister, Judi Wakhungu, told Reuters.
Kenya, which also bans sports hunting, has for decades
focused on wildlife-watching safaris and ecotourism as the main
revenue streams from its big animals. In April it burnt 105
tonnes of ivory from 8,000 animals.
Tens of thousands of elephants have been poached in Africa
the past decade to meet demand for ivory in newly affluent Asian
economies, where it is prized for carvings and other decorative
CITES recommended on Sunday that countries with legal
domestic ivory markets - which are not regulated by the
convention as its remit is cross-border trade - start closing
them down because they are seen as contributing to poaching.
Elephant populations have drastically declined in east and
central Africa, with Tanzania estimated to have lost around 60
percent of its population of the animals in the past decade. But
a number of southern African states - with notable exceptions
such as Mozambique - have stable to growing elephant numbers.
The southern African kingdom of Swaziland has tabled a
proposal to sell rhino horn but it is also unlikely to get the
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)