Indian elephants threatened as Britain backs China move on ivory


London : Animal support groups fear for elephants in India and Africa following the British government’s official backing to China to buy ivory.

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The government voted in China’s favour at the UN, despite protests from its own MPs. The vote, at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), gives China the right to buy ivory auctioned by four southern African countries, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Britain’s Wildlife Minister Joan Ruddock defended the vote, saying China had complied with the criteria set for the sale.

According to the minister, there is a 2002 agreement for a one-off sale of legal stocks of ivory in Africa and that China has assured that the ivory coming in to China will not be exported, and will be effectively monitored within China.

China is considered the centre of the world’s illegal ivory trade, although the government is cracking down on it.

Environmentalists claim that the entry of China into the market will provide a substantial opportunity for the laundering of illegal ivory, and provide the impetus for further poaching across Africa, where more than 20,000 elephants are killed illegally every year.

They say while Asian countries, India in particular, have begun to take elephant poaching seriously, the move could once again encourage poachers to kill elephants for illegal sale of ivory.

British MPs were threatening to table a protest motion against the government for supporting China in the vote.

More than 150 MPs of all parties had signed a cross-party motion calling for the government not to vote for China to be given a licence to trade in ivory.