The trade in ivory, which has been banned for almost 30 years, will not be softened until further notice. This was decided by the Species Protection Conference in Geneva. It rejected by a large majority applications from countries in southern Africa that wanted to reuse the tusks of elephants. All decisions must be confirmed in plenary at the end of the conference next week.

"Relaxing elephant conservation would have been completely absurd, but the fact that the rejection of the ivory trade is so clear is sensational," said Daniela Freyer, co-founder of animal welfare organization Pro Wildlife. "The cancellation of the ivory trade and the requested relaxation of elephant protection could hardly have been more clear."

The federal government had rejected a softening of the ivory trade. "For the fight against poaching, it is important that there is still no international legal market on which poached ivory can be 'washed clean'," said Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. "We must protect the green heart of Africa and its unique flora and fauna," said German Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU). Humans need alternatives to poaching. Countries should be supported with food aid and job creation.

Giraffes should also be better protected

The representatives of the 183 states parties to the CITD also decided to better protect giraffes. The international trade in meat, leather and hunting trophies or the shipping of animals to zoos and circuses should only be possible if the exporting country proves that the stocks are not endangered thereby. In contrast, countries in southern Africa protested the most. Giraffe herds have been estimated to have fallen by up to 40 percent over the past 30 years to around 100,000.

"An important step," said Ralf Sonntag of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Geneva on the decision. "The giraffes are in great danger, and if a threat aspect such as trade is removed, there is a chance that giraffe populations will recover." Katharina Lameter of Pro Wildlife also said with satisfaction, "There are nine giraffe subspecies, five of which are threatened, two are even in danger of extinction, and this is no longer ignored."

Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe argued that elephant and giraffe stocks are stable or even larger, thanks to successful conservation measures. There are problems only in countries further north. The population must be able to profit commercially from the game. The representative of Zambia warned that the population could lose interest in game preservation in case of persistent or new restrictions. This could make poaching worse and endanger the survival of the species. "We can not be good zoos if the zookeepers are not paid," said Botswana's representative.