China has dismissed critics of the United Nations decision to allow Beijing to buy ivory from Africa. Some wildlife protection organizations
say the license to legally trade will only encourage smuggling and
elephant poaching. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Foreign Ministry has disputed concerns that China cannot adequately
police its trade in ivory. A United Nations' committee in charge of
regulating the trade voted Tuesday to grant China the right to bid in
an auction, along with Japan, for African ivory.
majority agreed that China had improved its ivory trade monitoring and
could participate in a one-off sale of 108 tons of African ivory.
trading was banned in 1989 to discourage poaching of a shrinking
population of elephants. Controlled trade in ivory was approved in
2002 provided that the elephants died of natural causes or were killed
as part of population management.
The measures reduced the illegal trade and poaching but have not completely stopped the problem.
Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says Beijing has passed a series of
laws and strictly cracked down on ivory smugglers and illegal traders.
says illegal smuggling and sales of ivory in China has plummeted
remarkably and that many international experts who visited China have
made objective assessments of China's efforts and achievements. He
says China hopes organizations can objectively report the facts.
least two African nations, Ghana and Kenya, and two wildlife protection
groups are opposed to the decision. They say allowing China's
participation would simply encourage the illegal ivory trade and
The Environmental Investigation Agency, a
non-governmental organization that monitors the illegal wildlife trade,
says China has done a poor job preventing illegal ivory sales.
agency revealed that China lost track of 110 tons of government ivory
stocks that were probably sold on illegal markets, between 1991 and
Allan Thornton, the chairman of the agency, says China is the largest smuggler of ivory in the world.
having legal ivory trade will provide a cover for more illegal ivory,
because legal trade just makes it very, very difficult to delineate
between what's legal and what's illegal," he said.
wildlife protection groups, like the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC,
support China's application. They say China should use the opportunity
to assist African countries in their conservation programs and increase
awareness among Chinese about the illegal ivory trade.
Ivory is very popular in China and used to make jewelry and for elaborate carvings.
Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have seen their elephant numbers
increase and will sell ivory at the auction set for later this year.