Group votes to urge countries to end domestic ivory trade




HONOLULU (AP) — An international environmental group voted Saturday to call on every country to shut down domestic ivory markets that threaten elephants.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which has 1,300 members from more than 160 countries, has no enforcement power, but its policy experts could help countries craft laws. Ivory trading is banned internationally, but domestic trade within countries is legal nearly everywhere.

"Today's vote at the IUCN World Conservation Congress calling for closure of domestic elephant ivory markets across the globe is vital, as the news about Africa's elephants is as bad as bad news gets," Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristian Samper said in a statement.

Details of the vote were not made public Saturday, but for a measure to pass more than half of the eligible members must be voting and a majority of the votes must support it.

The group of government and nonprofit representatives planned to vote Friday at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, but the vote was delayed when some members filed a complaint saying their concerns had not been heard. Conference organizers did not identify the representatives or countries who delayed the vote.

The number of savanna elephants in Africa is rapidly declining and the animals are in danger of being wiped out because of the ivory trade, according to a recent study, which said the population plummeted by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014 and is declining at about 8 percent a year.

The United States announced a near-total ban on the domestic sale of African elephant ivory in June.

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Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbussewitz . Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/cathy-bussewitz .
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