Beijing 2008 : rings made of ivory

31 Jul 2008

On 16th July, 2008 in Geneva, three weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games, China was given authorization to act as a commercial licensed partner within the legal elephant ivory traffic. Thus, the biggest black market for ivory in the world will consolidate its position. Thousands of ivory retailers throughout China can hold their heads up high as they cooly welcomed the tourists of olympic games. Within a couple of months according to the CITES program (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the price of 108 t of ivory stocks auctionned by South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe is expected to increase after China’s accreditation, Japan being till now the only legal candidate. As a matter of fact, little legal ivory is sufficient to launder a lot of illicit ivory and there is no doubt the price of ivory will skyrocket after China’s entry into ivory stock exchange. South Africa and their neighbours applaude but 27 African states are angry and fear an upsurge of poaching. Moreover the Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe will exchange with China more ammunitions for ivory as he has already done. This vote officially opens the doors of international ivory trade to more than one billion potential buyers without taking into account the threats of extinction of wild African and Indian elephants.


Faithful to their anarchic vision of international trade, Great Britain and Bulgaria, on behalf of the European Union and under the pressure of Germany voted in favor of China’s claim. France residing the Presidence of the European Union did nothing to oppose the vote. This is a political stance inside an ecological purpose built international instrument. It aims to calm the Chinese authorities. In a way it can be said that the elephants counterbalance the Dalai Lama or that ivory is used as a move to facilitate under these critical diplomatic circumstances the export to China of nuclear or aeronautical equipments and machine tools. The European Commission has lost its sense of direction : to trade with China, they decided to sacrifice African elephants. The EU position is partly founded on the optimistic comments of a three day survey in China by a three deputies chief clerks delegation of the German Ministry of Environment. At the French Ministry it is stated that « all guarantees have been obtained from China concerning the management of legal stockpiled ivory ». The traceability of ivory would be perfect. CITES itself adds its piece of serenity : on behalf of its 173 member states, the international organisation considers the infamous death sentence imposed to ivory smugglers as the upmost proof of China’s seriousness in this field.

Japan and Iceland voted in favor of China’s claim. Both states can more than ever rely on China for a support within the International Whaling Commission


Dessins Bruno Congar pour Robin des Bois

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