April 5, 2006

Angolan illegal ivory trade doubles in a year: WWF

By Christopher Thompson

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola's illegal trade in ivory tusks
has doubled in the past year, dealing a further blow to efforts
to stamp out elephant poaching, according to a new report by
wildlife watchdogs TRAFFIC and WWF International.

"Four years on from the end of the Angolan Civil War, the
bloody plight of the country's elephants is worsening with a
doubling in the illegal ivory trade over the last 12 to 18
months," according to the TRAFFIC report.

The report surveyed the volume of elephant ivory available
in curio markets in the Angolan capital Luanda.

For the first time since the end of the country's decades
long civil war in 2002, the report shows that the volume of
elephant ivory available in local markets is escalating.

Over 1.5 tonnes of worked ivory products, representing the
tusks of at least 300 African elephants, were observed during
the June 2005 survey.

TRAFFIC estimates that some 12,000 elephants are killed
annually in Africa for their ivory, principally to serve
American, European and increasingly Chinese markets.

"Illegal ivory markets expand when business is booming and
government authorities look the other way," said Tom Milliken,
Director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa.

"The war continues for elephants as all of the ivory traded
through these local markets is coming from illicit sources."

Of the 37 countries that still harbor wild populations of
African elephants, Angola is the only one that remains a
non-Party to the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the main
mechanism for regulating trade in threatened wildlife.


"The Angolan connection is a new, growing and worrying
dimension in the illegal ivory trade as it currently exists
beyond the reach of CITES," said Milliken.

The TRAFFIC study found that nearly three-quarters of the
ivory vendors in Luanda were French-speaking Congolese from the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"... many of the ivory products appeared to originate from
Congo Basin countries," it said. This would point to serious
elephant poaching in the west African bush.

War-battered Angola itself has only about 250 elephants.

Elephant populations elsewhere are on the rise -- in part
because of an almost complete global ban on the ivory trade.

The World Conservation Union says elephant numbers in east
and south Africa are rising. It says surveys showed elephant
numbers in the two regions rose to 355,000 from 283,000 in the
five years to 2002, a growth rate of 4.5 percent per year.