Five southern African nations are requesting permission to resume ivory trading at an international conference that begins today in Santiago, Chile. They are asking the 160 countries that have signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to allow them to clear out stockpiles — mainly from elephants that died naturally — and to sell 14 tons more of ivory each year. Under such a framework, South Africa alone might raise $3 million from a one-time sale and about $200,000 a year after that. The five countries say their elephant populations are now too large, posing threats to the environment. Meanwhile, Kenya and India, whose elephant populations continue to be at risk, are siding with environmentalists, arguing that even discussing the idea of expanding ivory trade would lead to increased poaching in their countries. Since the ban on ivory trading began 13 years ago, the number of elephants killed in Kenya has declined from several thousand per year to only scores per year.

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