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Media Release: CITES has approved ivory sale - South Africa to sell ivory to China and Japan

Date: 2008-11-05

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South Africa announced on 9 October 2008 their satisfaction with the integrity of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) accredited buyers systems of China and Japan for the once off sale of stockpiled ivory.

South Africa announced on 9 October 2008 their satisfaction with the integrity of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) accredited buyers systems of China and Japan for the once off sale of stockpiled ivory.

The announcement follows the conclusion of a trip to both countries by officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and South African National Parks (SANParks). The Standing Committee of CITES had designated Japan and China as importing countries for the sale of the stockpiled ivory in July 2008. This accreditation follows the CITES Standing Committee decision that both countries have sufficient measures in place to prevent re-exporting of the ivory as agreed by the CITES Conference of Parties at its 14th Meeting held in the Netherlands in July 2007.

It was decided by South Africa, in July 2008, to send a delegation to both countries to assess enforcement capacity, the ivory registration processes and general CITES compliance, in order to satisfy the South African government.

Officials embarked on the trip between 22 September 2008 and 02 October 2008.

South Africa has been authorised by CITES to make a once off sale of approximately 51 metric tons of raw ivory.

In China ivory is used primarily in the ivory carving industry for cultural art works, while in Japan the ivory is used largely for the production of musical instruments and hanko’s used as seals (signatures) for official documents. Both countries produce figurines, jewellery, and ornaments from ivory.

Both China and Japan have computerised registration systems in place which entails the registration of tusks and ivory products. In China all products have identifying certificates which provide a description of the item and indicates that it cannot be exported. Similarly in Japan an identifying CITES sticker accompanies all worked ivory pieces and a registration certificate is issued for whole tusks.

Information is readily available to inform the public and tourists that ivory cannot be re-exported. Such information is available at airports and stores selling ivory products.

The delegation was informed that China and Japan have strict enforcement and control at ports of entry and exit. This includes advanced ivory detection equipment.

Both countries have been included under category I of the CITES legislative process. This means that CITES has approved their national legislation on the implementation of CITES as fulfilling the requirements of CITES. In addition, the CITES Secretariat reported that “China’s legislation contains some of the most severe criminal sanctions for CITES-related violations of all parties and the courts have not hesitated to impose very substantial penalties (including capital punishment and life imprisonment) upon those who attempt to smuggle ivory into mainland China”.

In addition both China and Japan met one of the conditions of sale which stipulates that potential buyers must be registered with a national association which has been registered with the CITES authorities in that country.

“South Africa has familiarised itself with the enforcement capacity and compliance with CITES regulations in both China and Japan. We are satisfied on the integrity of the accredited buyers systems as it relates to the transaction and will now begin preparations for the sale,” said Mr. Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director-General for Biodiversity and Conservation at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

For media queries contact Roopa Singh (DEAT) on 082 225 3076 or wanda mkutshulwa (SANParks) on 082 908 2692.

Issued by:
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

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