France steps up fight against ivory poaching
France is to burn three tonnes of ivory as part of the fight against poaching. Paris pledged to destroy its ivory stocks and increase fines on traffickers of endangered species. The move came at round-table meeting on Thursday organised by President François Hollande's special environmental envoy Nicolas Hulot ahead of Friday's Africa summit.
The illegal trade in ivory and rhino horns has spread to such an extent that it threatens stability in Africa.
It is no loger just a threat to biodiversity, experts say.
Investigations have linked the ivory trade with sources of funding for rebel groups, such as the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. In the Central African Republic some units of the Seleka rebels who toppled former president François Bozizé are suspected of poaching about 20 elephants in the Dzanga-Sangha reserve last May.
"Buying ivory must be a punishable act," Hollande declared on Thursday.
In addition to burning its ivory stocks, France said it will increase fines to 750,000 euros for trafficking by organised gangs.
The meeting brought together about 20 countries and seven heads of state, including those of Cameroon, the Comoros, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mali, Tanzania and Togo.
Signatories of the plan committed themselves to act quickly and resolutely.
France committed to give assistance in the light of the economic difficulties and countries' plans to tackle the problem.
Gabon will benefit from a 10-million euro debt conversion over five years and Mozambique will have four-million-euro programme.
Paris believes that rampant hunting of forest elephants can only be stopped if the fight is internationalised and has suggested a harmonisation of European sanctions.
The trade is mainly driven by demand for tusks and horns in China, Vietnam and Laos. The tusk is often ground into powder and consumed in the mistaken belief that it will bring special powers.
Africa's elephant population is estimated to be 500,000. Despite a1989 moratorium on the ivory trade, 20,000 elephants are killed every year.