July 18, 2008

China Illegal Ivory Trade Fight Defended

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman rejected any criticism of his government's fight against illegal ivory trade.

Commenting on an NGO report critical of China's program, Liu Jianchao said it is unfair and twists facts, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Conservation groups have come out strongly against this week's decision by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species approving the sale of African elephant ivory to China.

In its decision, the U.N. agency said China -- one of the largest importers of elephant ivory -- has dramatically improved its enforcement of ivory rules. The decision will allow China to bid on a stock of more than 100 tons of ivory obtained from culling and from elephants that had died of natural causes in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Conservation groups condemned the decision, saying it would only fuel demand and encourage poaching. They say African elephant populations have fallen to about 625,000 from 1.3 million a decade ago.

Liu said the Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of wild animals, including elephants.