A 18-year ban on ivory trading is over. Four African states will put their ivory stocks on the market in a one-time sale as part of a hard-fought compromise reached early Thursday with other Africans who tried to block the sale.
The 171-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, approved the deal by consensus, in what Europe hailed as a milestone for the wildlife trade organization.
The arrangement allows South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to empty government inventories in a single sale to Japan. But future sales will be frozen for nine years after the sale goes through.
Critics of the sale came to the conference demanding a 20-year moratorium on reopening the ivory ban for discussion.
The dispute over the ivory sale consumed the energies of the two-week conference of CITES, which sets the rules for wildlife commerce and regulates the trade in tens of thousands of plants and animals.
The United States objected to the inclusion of Zimbabwe, accusing the government of complicity in the illegal ivory trade and charging that more than 900 poaching camps have been found on its territory - six times more that were found in 2001. But chief delegate Todd Willens said the United States would not try to amend or block the compromise.
However, TRAFFIC, an independent group monitoring the movement of wildlife products, said it looked into the claims of Zimbabwe complicity and found none.