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Worldwide conservation body backs total ban on ivory trade

Updated: 2016-05-28 20:58

NAIROBI -- The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Friday a total ban on trade in wildlife products would strike the right message on the need to conserve nature and intensify the fight against international criminal networks exploiting trade in ivory and rhino horns.

"The reality is that a formal ban in ivory and rhino horns trade could generate benefits," Marco Lambertini, the Director General of WWF International told Xinhua in an interview in Nairobi.

Ahead of an international conservation meeting in South Africa in September to October, countries remain divided on a suggestion by the Kenyan government for a total ban on trade in ivory products.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting is expected to discuss a raft of proposals on how to deal with the conservation of endangered species.

Lambertini said the WWF has been working with authorities in countries affected by the activities of the organized criminal networks dealing in the ivory to enhance legislation in countering the trade.

"We work with the governments in countries where demand is coming from to support legislation. As WWF, we have a network of offices around the world and are well-placed to support countries in various ways to counter this problem," Lambertini said on the sidelines of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which ended in Nairobi on Friday, after week-long deliberations.

Speaking at the conference, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta hailed China and other countries, for supporting Kenya's initiative to end ivory trade.

Kenya recently burnt 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.3 tonnes of rhino horns to highlight the worthless value of the elephant tusks.

"There is strong consensus required to deal with this (ivory trade). We need leadership from the top. The leaders have to object to this trade because it is a crime against nature," Lambertini said.

Earlier, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, decried the disagreements at the previous CITES meetings on how to handle the growing crisis of wildlife crime as a drawback to international conservation efforts.

"Clearly, things are not working," Steiner said, addressing journalists on his 10-yearlong tenure at the helm of the UN body tasked with providing advice on environmental policy.

The outgoing UNEP chief said the disagreements over how to handle poaching and other wildlife crimes had confused the public.

Countries in Southern Africa have been at odds with their East African counterparts which have been pushing for a ban on ivory trade. Most Southern African countries, driven by commercial ranchers, have been pushing for lifting of an ivory moratorium, to enable them to sell some ivory stockpiles.

"We are facing a crisis in environmental crimes. The demand is rising again. We need to tackle it by dealing with demand and the collaboration between the criminal gangs dealing in ivory and rhino trade and organized crime," Lambertini said.

"We need to work together to eradicate this to protect countries that rely on tourism and the natural ecosystem for their economic survival. This issue has a connection with criminal trade and terrorism. It has security perspectives," he added.

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