Sudan Denies Military Involved in Ivory Trade

Friday May 13th, 2005 10:52

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 13, 2005 (PANA) - The Sudanese government has refuted claims by a UK-based conservation group that poachers of elephants were using state military facilities to promote an illegal ivory trade.

The wildlife conservation body- Care for the Wild International, cited Khartoum-based ivory craftsmen as implicating the Sudanese government army of poaching animals from the war-ravaged Southern Sudan.

The Sudanese Embassy here said claims by the Care for the Wild International that Khartoum was engaged in the killing of endangered wildlife species to supply tusks to Sudan's booming ivory trade, were unjustified.

It said in a statement issued Wednesday that the East African country has made numerous efforts to abide by international agreements to halt the trade and save fragile populations of elephants from being completely destroyed.

The UK-based group accused the Sudanese government of conducting open trade in ivory from thousands of elephants being poached in the Southern Sudan war-fields and transported to Khartoum in military convoys.

"The trade in ivory in Sudan is so expensive because of the high cost of transport that no individual buyers would afford to transport the tusks from the south to the north and still sell at a profit," said Esmond Martin, Care for the Wild researcher in Sudan.

But Sudanese authorities dismissed the report, saying it was not exact and did not offer concrete evidence of government complicity in the ivory trade.

"This means that it has a hidden agenda concerning this accusation without giving out any material evidence," the embassy statement pointed out.

The Sudanese authorities strongly rejected the accusations, saying: "Trade in elephant ivory was banned internationally in 1998. Since then, no exports were made by the government, except by those involved in smuggling."

In February, investigators from the international conservation group allegedly discovered over 11,000 ivory trinkets - ranging from pendants to cigarette holders - openly on sale throughout Sudanese capital.

Dr Martin, who conducted the survey, estimated between 6,000 and 12,000 elephants are killed each year to supply the illegal trade.

"The government has seized several pieces of ivory destined for Egypt. There is a considerable amount of ivory which has been impounded by the custom authorities in Khartoum and in Port Sudan and several raids have been carried out to control the local markets in the capital," the embassy statement noted.

The sale of ivory items in Sudan is legal if the shopkeeper has a government licence, and if the ivory items have been carved from old ivory, the government explained.

But no items made of tusks from recently killed Sudanese elephants are permitted, nor are items from imported tusks dating after the 1990 ivory ban under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the embassy said.

There are no reliable figures of the elephant population in Sudan, but the most recent figures suggest a decline from 133,000 in 1979 to 40,000 in 1992.

Overall, Africa's population of elephants halved between 1979 and 1989, largely as the result of poaching. Care for the Wild predicts that today, there are estimated to be 400,000 to 660,000 elephants on the continent.

Numbers have recovered in some southern African nations since 1990, with the CITES ban on international trade in ivory.

Posted in: Governance
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