Namibia sells 7.2 tonnes of ivory

After lower-than-expected prices were achieved in the first United Nations-approved auction of ivory since 1999, wildlife experts differed over whether the drop in price would discourage poachers, Reuters reported. In the first of four scheduled auctions, the Namibian government sold 7.2 tonnes of stockpiled ivory for US$1.2 million.

Most experts had predicted far higher prices, but the ivory offered by Namibia ultimately was of relatively low quality. It went to Chinese and Japanese bidders for an average price of US$164 a kilogramme.

Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), told Reuters that the lower price might discourage ivory carvers and poachers by offering them less incentive to deal in the goods. He is overseeing the sales, from which proceeds go toward animal conservation.

But environmental organisations, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said the auctions would encourage poaching. IFAW has estimated that black-market ivory sells in Asia for US$880 a kilogramme.

The total number of elephants, the world’s largest land mammals, has fallen significantly in many parts of Africa because of poaching, loss of habitat to farms and towns, pollution and climate change. In exemptions from a 1989 UN global export ban on ivory, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa will hold similar auctions in the next two weeks for ivory totalling almost 100 tonnes.

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