HARARE, Zimbabwe ( Associated Press) — Zimbabwe kicked off an international conference Monday to try to rally international support for its campaign to be allowed to sell its stockpiles of seized ivory.
Should the southern African nation not receive permission to sell its 130 tons of ivory, which is worth an estimated $600 million, officials warn it could withdraw from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES for its initials in English).
The three-day conference kicked off Monday in Hwange National Park, the country’s largest wildlife hub, located in southwestern Zimbabwe. The meeting will be attended by representatives from 16 African nations, as well as China and Japan, the main consumers of ivory, officials said.
Envoys from some members of the European Union, Britain, the United States and Canada last week toured the protected reserves in Harare, where elephant tusks are stored, to garner international support for the legal sale of ivory.
Zimbabwe’s effort to sell this ivory has been controversial and many conservation groups oppose it, claiming that any sale of ivory encourages elephant poaching.
The conference “sends a dangerous signal to poachers and criminal groups that elephants are just a product, and that the ivory trade could resume, increasing the threat to the species,” a coalition of elephants said in a statement on Monday. 50 animal and wildlife rights organizations from around the world.
South African nations have twice been allowed to sell their ivory stocks to Japan and China, in 1997 and 2008, and those limited sales have resulted in “a marked increase” in poaching across the continent, the document said.
“Legalizing the ivory trade, including another ‘single’ sale, could have equally disastrous consequences,” the groups said.