South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe tabled the controversial proposal at the 183rd CITES summit to reopen their ivory trade.
The four countries which host some of the largest elephant populations in the continent wanted to be allowed to sale their ivory stockpile in what they say the proceeds will be used to fund conservation and community development.
“Africa is not one country, and our wildlife approaches will never be the same. We are being held hostage by the global ban on ivory sales,” said a Botswana delegate.
“They are the ones walking bare-footed, with no schools or hospitals.”
However, Mali’s delegate opposed lifting the ban, saying it was akin to opening a Pandora box.
“It would unleash an absolute disaster.”
One-off sales took place in 1997 and 2008 and Kenya, which was opposed to the proposal from the word go, said the two experiments on the same had miserably failed and only lead to an increase in poaching.
“We have had two experiments and they failed”
The new sale proposal was comprehensively voted down by 101 votes to 23. The United States and the European Union were among those opposing the change and 18 countries abstained.
Thousands of elephants are still being slaughtered every day
The international commercial trade in ivory has been banned since 1990. However, about 50 elephants are still being poached every day to supply ivory traffickers and all countries agree the world’s largest land animal needs greater protection.
As many as 35,000 elephants are killed each year primarily for their tusks, according to the African Wildlife Foundation, an international conservation nonprofit.
Countries which voted no argue that any resumption of ivory sales could fuel a boost in the illegal ivory market and hasten the extinction of African elephants.
Gabon wants to end all trade on ivory
32 African nations are of the opinion that all trade in elephants must end, including the trophy hunting legal in some states in order to save the world’s largest land animal.
Another proposal, led by Gabon, to end all international trade in elephants by permanently eliminating all commercial international trade of the animals throughout Africa also failed to pass.
“If we don’t act now it is quite possible our grandchildren will not have the opportunity to see elephants.” said Gabon delegate.
Botswana, fiercely opposed Gabon’s proposal terming it “totally ridiculous” and South Africa declared that it was “affronted”.
The proposal was defeated, 67 to 51, leaving a stalemate.