JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — South African animal rights activists reacted furiously on Wednesday after a decision to allow China to import ivory from the region, saying it spells disaster for African elephants.
China, one of the world's biggest consumers of elephant ivory, will be allowed to import 51 tonnes of ivory from South Africa after a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) decision licensed the country as an ivory buyer on Tuesday.
"This sale has literally given the green light to the international poaching syndicates and organised crime and will present a nightmare to poorly resourced wildlife enforcement agencies in Africa," said Animal Rights Africa in a statement.
"In real terms this represents the death of an estimated 7,699 South African elephants (1.8 tusks per elephant and 3.68kg per tusk)."
The group also accused South Africa's government of being "one of the main proponents for the continuation of the immoral ivory trade."
"Annually more than 20,000 elephants are killed for the illegal ivory trade and Chinese nationals have already been implicated in illegal ivory seizures by law enforcement agencies in 20 African countries."
Other African countries, such as Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were also involved in the agreement.
CITES, which groups 173 countries, banned international trade in ivory in 1989. But from 1997 onwards it authorised a few African nations to hold ivory sales at regular intervals.
ARA spokeswoman Michele Pickover said CITES was merely a pro-trade organisation that had failed wild animals.
"What is even more abhorrent is that the South African government is already licking its lips at the prospect of this dishonourable and blood-soaked deal. We are also horrified that Britain and the EU supported this sale."
China is one of the world's main destinations of illegal ivory from poached African elephants.
South Africa recently lifted a moratorium on elephant culling after a 13-year ban saw a sharp rise in population numbers.
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