The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) made an important step towards banning the sale of wild elephants to zoos, a "historic victory" hailed by environmentalists.
A large majority of countries have decided to strictly limit sales of wild elephants in Africa to those intended to keep animals in their natural environment. They have, in fact, prohibited the capture for structures of maintenance in captivity (zoological parks, parks of leisures ...), a practice considered as "cruel" by the defenders of the animal cause.
The proposal, which had 46 votes in favor, 18 against and 19 abstentions, thus reached in one of the two committees the two-thirds majority required for adoption. It will nevertheless have to be approved in plenary on 28 August at the closing meeting of the CITES Threatened Species Conference.
"This decision will save a large number of elephants torn from their families in the wild and forced to spend their lives imprisoned in zoos under poor conditions," said Iris Ho, of Humane Society International's Animal Protection Group. HSI) in Washington, quoted in a statement.
The sale of elephants from West, Central and Eastern Africa, which have long been protected species, was already banned, unlike those in southern Africa, which are less threatened.
Zimbabwe has captured and sold more than 100 elephant babies to Chinese zoos since 2012, according to the HSI.
"This preliminary decision strongly states that elephants do not belong to the entertainment industry," responded in a statement Cassandra Koenen, head of wildlife at the World Society for Animal Welfare (WSPA).
"It's a big step in the right direction," she added.
This vote is the first of the UN's CITES conference on endangered species, which runs from Saturday until August 28 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Thousands of delegates - policy makers and conservation experts - from more than 180 countries are debating 56 proposals to change the level of protection for wild animals and plants.
Created more than 40 years ago, CITES sets the rules for the international trade of more than 35,000 species of wildlife and has a mechanism that allows it to impose sanctions on countries that do not respect these rules.
This meeting comes after the publication of a UN report in May announcing that a million species were threatened with extinction.
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