Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Hugh Vickery in Washington
October 14, 2004
With U.S. Support, Nambia Gains Approval for Small-Scale International Trade in Jewelry Made From Ivory

(BANGKOK, Thailand) - With the support of the United States, Namibia gained international approval today to allow tourists and other individuals to take home traditional African jewelry containing ivory known as ekipas for personal use.

The member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) approved small-scale trade in ekipas after Namibia amended its original proposal to remove a request for an annual export quota of 2,000 kilograms of raw ivory and commercial exports of ekipas for resale. The United States opposed this request for broader trade in ivory.

Namibia's proposal to allow individuals to purchase ekipas for personal use was approved on a secret ballot vote of 71 yes and 23 no with 35 nations abstaining. The vote occurred at the 13th biannual CITES' Conference of Parties.

"Namibia should be commended for their exemplary success in the conservation of elephants and other wildlife," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David P. Smith, alternate head of the U.S. delegation. "We firmly believe that the approval of this noncommercial trade for personal use will not result in the poaching of elephants and will directly benefit local communities and craftsmen. We remain consistent in our opposition to commercial trade of ivory."

International wildlife conservation groups also praised the vote in a press statement.

"Namibia has done an exemplary job of conserving its elephants and other wildlife and WWF is confident the trade will be tightly controlled and will not lead to poaching of elephants," said Dr. Susan Lieberman, head of the World Wildlife Fund's delegation to CITES. "This small-scale trade will directly benefit Namibia's excellent community-based conservation work."

"We have every expectation that Namibia's control system for ekipas will set a standard for good regulation for worked ivory in Africa," said Tom Milliken, director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa, a wildlife traffic monitoring network.

Ivory to be made into ekipas would only come from registered ivory stocks maintained and certified by the Namibian government, more than 90 percent of which is the result of natural mortality.

In addition, each individual ekipa would be marked and numbered, certified, and accompanied by a CITES permit. Namibia has demonstrated the ability to regulate this entire process in a transparent fashion.

There are still concerns about resumption of commercial exports of ivory products for fear it may increase counterfeiting of export products and poaching. Noncommercial sales of ekipas would not permit any export shipments for further retail sales.

Additionally, tourists who buy the ekipas would be prohibited from subsequently reselling these items. Adoption of this provision does not affect U.S. law that prohibits the import of ivory, and ekipas would continue to be prohibited from entry into the United States.

Earlier in the Conference of the Parties, the United States joined in a consensus to approve proposals to allow trade in elephant leather and hair by Namibia and South Africa. There is no evidence that elephants are poached for their hide or hair. No elephants are legally killed in Namibia for the purpose of obtaining ivory.

The United States has long been one of the world's major supporters of African and Asian elephant conservation. With the passage by the U.S. Congress of the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided millions of dollars in cost-share grants to nations in Africa and Southern and Southeast Asia.



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