MORE THAN 100 tonnes of Ivory went on sale legally on Tuesday, when the first officially sanctioned auction of the material in southern Africa for almost a decade was opened.
Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe all auctioned the ivory from stockpiles to buyers from China and Japan, with the money raised going into elephant conservation projects.
Although some environmental groups were against the sale, saying that it would encourage poachers to kill elephants to feed into the illegal trade, the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), that sanctioned the sale, says it will monitor trade in China and Japan to ensure that companies do not mix illegally sourced ivory with the legal shipments.
Excessive poaching, leading to the decimation of elephant populations, was behind the worldwide ban on the ivory trade in 1989. This sale and another in 1999, of tusks from animals who died of mainly natural causes have been the only legal exceptions.