South Africa opposed a resolution that lauded CITES for supporting the destruction of government stockpiles of ivory seized from poachers and traffickers. It asserted that CITES acted out of turn by encouraging governments to destroy their ivory.
Thea Carroll, South Africa’s representative at the meeting, said, “South Africa is concerned about the negative consequences of destroying stockpiles.” South Africa’s view is that destroying ivory increases its scarcity and therefore drives up prices. Many economists reject that reasoning and the Standing Committee members voted to suspend discussions on legalising ivory trade.
South Africa’s objection to destroying stockpiles “implies that the country endorses future trading of ivory,” said Will Travers, chairperson of the Species Survival Network and CEO of Born Free Foundation.
South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe oppose the destruction of illegal ivory. These three countries made a profit from their stockpiles in 2008 when CITES approved a one-time ivory sale to China and Japan. That move is widely believed to have spurred the current elephant poaching crisis, in which some 30 000 are killed each year.
The EU representative at the meeting requested that any discussion on a legal trade be deferred for at least four years and that efforts be concentrated on the war on poaching.
Since 2011, there have been 11 ivory destruction events in 10 countries: Kenya, Gabon, the Philippines, India, United States, China (including Hong Kong), France, Chad, Belgium, and Portugal.
Sri Lanka is planning an ivory crush for later this month, and the governments of Malawi, New Zealand, and Vietnam have voiced interest in destroying theirs, according to CITES.