Sudan singled out in illegal ivory trade

Thousands of elephants in Central Africa are killed each year to cater to world consumer demand for ivory, much of which passes through the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, wildlife trade expert Edmond Martin said on Monday in Nairobi.

Speaking at a press conference in the Kenyan capital, Martin said Khartoum now holds one of the world’s largest markets for illegal ivory, and a recent investigation showed that more than 11 000 pieces of mostly new ivory were on sale in shops in Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman.

The international ivory trade was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which also prohibited the sale of ivory from tusks dated after 1990.

According to Martin, all shop owners and craftsmen in the Sudan market said their ivory had come from neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad and Kenya, as well as southern Sudan.

Barbara Maas, who heads the wildlife charity Care for the Wild, said that half of Africa’s elephants had disappeared between 1979 and 1989, and that it was mostly as a result of poaching for the illegal ivory trade, while Martin put the number of elephants killed each year to supply the Asian ivory markets at between 6 000 and 12 000.

Both Maas and Martin linked the illegal ivory trade to the several thousand Chinese nationals working in Sudan in the oil, mining and construction sectors, who buy an estimated 75% of the ivory sold in Sudan.

China, since the mid-1990s the world’s major market for ivory, must ensure that its citizens travelling abroad know that buying and importing ivory is illegal, the two experts said.

Martin also urged the Sudanese government to curb the illegal trade by simply “enforcing their own laws”.

He said that despite the government’s pledge at last year’s Cites conference in Bangkok to bring the trade under control by the end of March this year, nothing has been done.—Sapa-DPA

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