Thursday, November 6, 2008


A large, legal sale of stockpiled ivory is going on in South Africa today. Sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the money raised is supposed to help fund conservation efforts in southern Africa. Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have already sold off their stock of tusks in the last two weeks, and CITES plans to monitor buyers so that they don't mix the legal ivory with that gained from poaching. 45% of the ivory comes from elephants culled for population control in Kruger park during the eighties and nineties, and the rest died of natural causes. South Africa expects to raise $8m from the sale.

Even with all the rational arguments in favour of this sale, and the good intentions behind it, something just doesn't sit well with me. At first I was under the impression that these were confiscated tusks being sold, which gave me the easy protest that it's akin to say, police confiscating child porn and then selling it to raise money to fight child abuse. That comparison is of course a bit silly and, now that I have more information, unusable. I think my compulsion to make the comparison in the first place is simply because it seems morally wrong. People fighting to protect elephants shouldn't be dealing with the sick market that caused their slaughter in the first place. It's tainted money, even if it doesn't actually encourage the illegal market, like some animal protection groups have argued.

(Thank goodness China won't run out of ivory cellphones, though! )

(P.S. Happy Birthday Rachel! A happy post for a happy day!)

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