NAIROBI (AFP) — Leading conservationist Richard Leakey on Wednesday lambasted an endangered species protection group for sanctioning one-off sales of ivory stockpiles in several African countries.
In a statement issued by his WildlifeDirect conservation organisation, Leakey argued that such sales would only encourage illegal trade and paoching.
"I believe that auctioning the ivory stockpiles would cause poaching to increase particularly in the central, eastern and western African elephant range states where poaching is not yet properly controlled," he said.
Then director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Leakey was behind the widely publicised 1989 event in which former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi set alight 12 tonnes of elephant tusks in a symbolic protest against the ivory trade.
Under the supervision of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a number of legal ivory auctions are being organised in what the organisation claims will help some countries fund conservation efforts.
Auctions have already been held on October 28 in Namibia, in Botswana on October 31 and on Monday in Zimbabwe, while a final sale is scheduled in South Africa on Thursday.
"I am skeptical and wonder if there is a way of knowing whether these funds will actually help conservation," Leakey said.
"Although CITES secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers says that southern African states have everything under control, it cannot be true for Zimbabwe," he said, citing reports of the country's wildlife being decimated.
"As the hammer falls for the last time in South Africa on Thursday, we cannot in any way say that this is a victory for conservation. It is indeed a great disservice to conservation."
Leakey also said that China had become the main destination for ivory and pointed out that the authorities had admitted to losing track of 120 tonnes of ivory from the government's stockpiles in the past 12 years.
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