Magazine article Geographical


Magazine article Geographical


Article excerpt


As a geography teacher, I am constantly looking for new ways to spark student's interest. Recently I have been recommending novels with a geographical flavour to help my students get a feeling for places and cultures. Perhaps readers could tell me what their favourite geographical novels are?

P Quantrill, Surrey


We are disappointed by the biased nature of the articles Ivory Ghosts (Dec 1999) and Ivory Towers (April 2000). CITES, at its 10th meeting, in June 1997 decided by a two-thirds majority to transfer from Appendix I to Appendix II the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe with a number of strict limitations regarding the authorised ivory trade. When early in 1999, the Standing Committee determined that the set conditions had been met, significant portions of government-owned registered stocks of raw ivory in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, that had originated in those countries, were exported to Japan. None of the legally traded ivory came from culling operations, nor was it intended that fresh stocks would be acquired through culling operations. Natural mortality provides significant amounts of ivory which can provide revenue for local communities and conservation initiatives. The profits from the ivory sale are being dedicated to conservation projects in the countries concerned. The monitoring system consisting of three essential elements has been put in place. Firstly, in collaboration with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), a system has been developed for monitoring illegal killing of elephants (MIKE). Programmes for collecting data in the field on the incidence and patterns of illegal killing of elephants are now operational in Central Africa, semi-operational in southern Africa and under development in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Secondly, the CITES Secretariat receives information on illegal hunting of elephants from official sources (on Incident Report Forms) and from non-official sources, including press cuttings, NGOs and private citizens. Thirdly, in 1997 CITES recognised the database established by TRAFFIC in 1992 for maintaining information on illegal trade in ivory. The database has been refined and developed. CITES also hold a complementary database.

In Autumn 1999 and early 2000, the Secretariat investigated reports in Kenya and Zimbabwe of increased seizures of illicit ivory and increased poaching of elephants. Our investigations revealed no evidence that illicit trade or poaching have increased significantly as a result of the legal, experimental trade.

Ivory Ghosts recounts the situation in Kenya yet fails to relate that more elephants were killed by poachers in 1993, long before any discussions on resuming a limited trade, than were killed in 1999. Neither does the author point out that more `problem' elephants are killed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service each year than by poachers.

A substantial majority of the Parties to CITES believed that ivory is such an important source of revenue for local communities that experimental trade should be conducted. There is a long history of deer and fish poaching in Scotland but no-one suggests that the Scots should stop marketing venison and smoked salmon.

J Barzdo, chief of convention interpretation and J Sellar, senior enforcement officer

Juliet Coombe author of Ivory Towers replies: CITES' letter of complaint fails to recognise what experts report back from the field. I quote from Daphne Sheldrick, one of Africa's leading authorities on elephants, "On paper, from the comfort of an armchair in far removed Switzerland, it all sounded fine. …

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