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20-year ban on trade in ivory

African states have called for a 20-year ban on trade in ivory to protect the continent's elephants from poachers and possible extinction in the wild.

Kenya and Mali, which spearheaded the moratorium along with Togo and Ghana, are seeking to have the measure adopted at the June meeting of the 169-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), their representatives said at a meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

A delegation representing some 20 African nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, will tour Europe this week to secure backing from the European Union for the ban, they said.

"The elephants are dramatically becoming depleted," said Patrick Omondi, head of species conservation and management at the Kenya Wildlife Service. "A 20-year moratorium is necessary to allow the population to recover, and to refine the mechanisms of law enforcement."

The African representatives lashed out at partial bans and quotas that have been implemented in the past.

"Every time CITES authorizes the sale of limited quantities of ivory, we witness an increase in poaching and illegal trade," said Bourama Niagate, head of the delegation and of nature conservation in Mali.

"We are confronted with men who are very organized and better armed than our standing armies, and at the same time we are in charge of protecting hundreds of thousands of hectares (acres) of parks and preserves without even basic communication tools," he said.

According to a report submitted by the African nations to CITES, the continent's elephant population has plummeted approximately ten-fold from up to five million in the 1940s to 400,000 to 600,000 today.

Some 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year, according to the document.


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 Illegal hunting has devastated elephant populations in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, the DRC, as well as in Niger, Mali, Malawi and Chad, where poachers recently killed three park officials.

"At 850 dollars a kilo for ivory in Japan, a poacher will go to any lengths to obtain 10 or 20 kilos," said the DRC's representative, Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa. "We have already lost our rhinoceros because of the trade in their horns."

In Sub-Saharan Africa, only a handful of countries South Africa, Namibia and Botswana do not support the moratorium. These nations are authorised by CITES to export limited quantities of ivory on the condition that they maintain elephant populations at certain levels through conservation." The challenge is to develop the software that can process the images in real time to throw out everything that is not a bird," said Prof Goldberg. The camera looks for rapid changes from one image to the next in a small area of the field of view. If these have an irregular shape and are moving at flying speed, the robot twitcher keeps them for researchers to look at later.

It has captured a red-tailed hawk, a great blue heron and a flock of Canada geese; but so far there has been no sign of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

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