Botswana is the only African country that has been able to protect its elephants from poachers since CITES imposed a ban on ivory trade in 1989 ? it emerged last week.A new study released yesterday claims as many as 23,000 elephants were slaughtered last year alone.
With the exception of well-protected herds in Botswana, the rest of Africa saw 1 in 12 elephants killed this past year.
The study was published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This, however, does not seem to be helping Botswana?s campaign to have the ivory trade ban lifted. CITES announced on Wednesday that the future of ivory trading still hangs in the balance with African countries divided over restrictions.
The ivory trade is on the agenda in June when the 169 governments signed to the CITES Convention meet in The Hague to reconsider wildlife trade rules.
?It is unlikely that we will find a solution then,? CITES Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers told journalists in Geneva.
Botswana and Namibia have put forward proposals to keep tight controls on ivory from their countries and from South Africa and Zimbabwe, with a view to easing restrictions on future sales.
Kenya and Mali are calling for a 20-year ban on trade in raw and worked ivory to stem the risk of poaching.
African governments may now meet before June.
?We need an African solution. As long as Africa is divided on that matter, there will be no solution,? said Wijnstekers.
The ivory trade has been banned since 1989, but one-off sales have been allowed from time to time, in instances where elephant populations were healthy and well-managed.
Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were permitted to sell 50 tons of ivory worth 5 million US dollars to Japan in 1999.
Further sales took place in 2002 but plans for annual quotas were refused in 2004. Any decision depends on the success of the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants programme to assess poaching and elephant numbers.
It is estimated that more than 64,000 kilos of smuggled ivory were seized since 1997, corresponding to tusks from 3,200 elephants.
Asked about the scale of illegal trading, David Morgan, of the Scientific Support unit said: ?Out of control is not a phrase we would use now.?
Banning the trade was a sign of failure not success, he added.