African ministers struggled on Wednesday to solve a dispute over elephant ivory between nations seeking to extend a 1989 export ban and others wanting limited trade.
THE HAGUE -- African ministers struggled on Wednesday to solve a dispute over elephant ivory between nations seeking to extend a 1989 export ban and others wanting limited trade.
"A number of issues have been resolved, a number of items agreed to, but we still need time to come to a conclusive agreement," Zimbabwe's Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema told delegates at a 171-nation U.N. wildlife conference.
The ministers would continue talks after coming close to a deal to sanction new sales totalling 140 tonnes of ivory by four nations in southern Africa, where elephant numbers are rising, and then none until 2016, delegates said.
Some ministers at the meeting of the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) argue more sales would spur illegal killings that would further endanger elephants. Others say regulated trade can help by ploughing cash into conservation and into building schools or hospitals.
Delegates said that one option was simply to put off the debate until the next CITES meeting due in 2010, meaning an extension of the trade moratorium for three years.
Kenya and Mali came to the June 3-15 CITES talks demanding a 20-year extension of a ban on all African ivory exports, after an already agreed one-off sale of 60 tonnes to Japan. They say poaching is rising and killing 19,000 elephants a year.
Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa want to allow regular trade to benefit remote communities where growing elephant numbers come into conflict with farmers.
Southern African nations say they collect ivory from animals who die from natural causes, from seizures from poachers and from licensed killings of "problem elephants". Ivory is used mainly in carvings and jewellery.
"I hope they manage to come up with a common proposal," Dutch Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg told a news conference, "I don't think it's a good thing to interfere."
French Environment Minister Alain Juppe said Paris wanted a 12-year moratorium after the one-off exports to Japan. "It's a question of ensuring over a long period that these sales do not lead to a rise in poaching," he said in a statement.
Hit by decades of hunting and expanding human populations, African elephants number about 470,000-685,000 against millions decades ago.
The rejected compromise would allow export permits for one-off sales of 70 tonnes from Botswana, 15 from Namibia, 40 from South Africa and 15 from Zimbabwe.