Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - South African animal rights activists are on a war footing over the reopening of the ivory trade with China. According to the activists, the government's move will be "disastrous" for the elephants - whose tusks provide the prized material - while the initial estimates speak of eight thousand animals that would be sacrificed to meet Chinese demand.
On Tuesday, July 15, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) included China, one of the world's leading ivory consumers, among the nations that can trade with South Africa: the country of the dragon was given permission to import 51 tonnes.
Animal rights groups are protesting vigorously. A statement released by the group Animal Rights Africa emphasises how "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". According to the first estimates, in order to meet demand from the new Chinese market, "an estimated 7,699 South African elephants" will be killed, a slaughter attributed to the South African government, guilty of promoting "the immoral ivory trade". In addition to South Africa, the other African countries that will profit from China's entry into the market are Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
In 1989, Cites, which includes 173 countries, decided to ban trade in the valuable material, permitting it again in 1997 for a small group of sub-Saharan countries, according to specific intervals. The decision to include China is believed to be a recognition of Beijing's efforts to block illegal trafficking: according to other animal rights groups, in open disagreement with the critics, the Asian country "has made great progress in blocking underground trade", providing proof of "maturity and responsibility".
Meanwhile, yesterday morning Kenyan police arrested three Chinese citizens (two of them women) at the international airport in Nairobi, under the accusation of "illegal trafficking in ivory". They had hidden 36 pieces in their baggage, including bracelets, chopsticks, and figurines carved from the precious material.