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Text : We need a total ban on ivory sales
Voici un texte sur lequel travailleront les 4ème européennes dans
le cadre d'un dossier sur les espèces en voie de disparition (avec Mme Van Der Haegen) :

The Guardian weekly (Macmillan publishers Ltd 2004)
We need a total ban on ivory sales

Richard Leakey

Fifteen years ago, Daniel Arap Moi, Kenya"s then president and myself set fire to 2,000 elephant tusks. pictures of this were shown on television around the world. If Kenya had sold these tusks, it would have earned millions of dollars. But I believed we had to show that the only way to save Africa's elephants was to destroy the trade.

During the 1980s, ivory trading had cut the elephant population of Africa from 1.3 million to just 625,000. Kenya lost 80 % of its elephants during this period. Most were killed by poachers. A few months after we burnt the tusks, the UN Convention on <international Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) put a ban on the ivory trade, and the killing of elephants was dramatically reduced. Recently Cites adopted an "action plan" that places further controls on the illegal ivory trade in Africa and calls on African countries with large elephant populations to prohibit unregulated domestic sales in ivory. But conservationists say the plan does not go far enough.

Conservation is only possible if a price is put on the heads of endangered species and people in developing countries will stop killing endangered animals if they can see a financial reason for not killing them. But historically, trade has been the main reason for the destruction of many species, from tigers to cod. Opening up even a limited legal trade allows the illegal market to thrive.

It is not surprising that the ban on the ivory trade has not lasted. Cites agreed to allow countries that already had ivory stocks from before the ban to sell the ivory. This followed pressure from a few southern African countries protected elephant populations and not much poaching. Since then, poaching has increased again but  some countries want to increase the trade in ivory. Namibia is asking Cites for an annual ivory export quota, as wall as permission to trade in worked ivory and elephant hair and, with South Africa, in elephant leather.

These countries say they have the right to profit from their natural resources. This sounds reasonable until you remember that many poorer countries are campaigning against this. Kenya, supported by many other African states, is proposing a 20-year moratorium on ivory trade. The economics of the ivory trade do not make sense. Most countries where elephants live are poor and politically unstable, and even a limited trade in ivory would cause problems. These countries are already having difficulties trying to protect their wildlife and allowing the ivory trade again would attract poachers to these countries.

As human populations grow, many countries are experiencing serious habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict. I am the first to support efforts to compensate faming communities for destruction caused by animals. However, as Kenya now has only 20 % of the elephants it had in 0970, this issue should be resolved by developing long-term land-use policies and not by exterminating wild life.

Richard Leakey was director of the Kenya Wildlife Service until 1999

The Guardian Weekly 10/15/2004
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