In the past decade about 111,000 elephants were killed for their tusks. Conservationists are meeting in South Africa over the next two weeks to set new rules for the trade of ivory and put an end to poaching.
The figures were announced at the Johannesburg conference on wildlife trade on Sunday, a global meeting to discuss the best way to improve the plight of Africa’s elephants, targeted for their tusks by poachers.
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Two African countries, Namibia and Zimbabwe, said they want to be able to sell ivory stockpiles that have accumulated from natural deaths to fund community elephant conservation initiatives.
Both countries boast healthy elephant populations and their appeal to sell the stockpiles is backed by South Africa.
"We have been keeping this ivory for nine years and we're hoping this moratorium will be lifted so that we are able to sell this ivory or to produce jewellery, artefacts for the benefit of our people," Zimbabwe's Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri said.
Thousands of conservationists and government officials are in Johannesburg for the 12-day gathering, seeking to hammer out new international trade regulations, with several proposals on whether to tighten or ease controls on the ivory trade on the agenda.
The illegal wildlife trade has put pressure on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that has been signed by 180 countries. The agreement aims to ensure that the trade in wildlife and animals do not threaten their survival.
"CITES should be there to facilitate us to succeed in our conservation programmes rather than these imperialistic policies," Muchinguri said.
"We have our sovereign right and we know best what to do, how to utilise our natural resources. We should not be punished, we should be rewarded."
Muchinguri said she was speaking on behalf of the southern African region which is home to three-quarters of the savannah jumbo population.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature put Africa’s total elephant population at around 415,000, which was based on 275 estimates across the continent.