African elephant range countries attending a meeting of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have agreed to a nine-year suspension of ivory trading.
The international wildlife convention also agreed to allow four southern African countries to sell stocks of their ivory.
“This consensus is a milestone in elephant history,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF Global Species Programme.
“This is the first time in more than 18 years that opposing factions are now speaking with one voice to move this debate forward."
The suspension will take effect after a previously approved "one-off" sale of ivory goes through.
Zambia and Chad presented a compromise document on behalf of all African countries with elephant populations, detailing an increase in the one-off sale of ivory to include ivory from stockpiles from Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe if registered by 31 January 2007.
Despite the controversy surrounding “one off” ivory sales and ivory trade suspensions, the real and substantive issues, according to WWF and TRAFFIC are illegal domestic ivory markets, both in Africa and Asia.
"Unfortunately, time ran out at the conference to effectively deal with the critical threat to elephants in the wild – poaching and illegal domestic ivory markets,” Dr Lieberman added.
The ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System) analysis reveals that key problem countries for illegal ivory are: Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Thailand and China.
“We are looking for real conservation achievement on the ground," said Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC in South and East Africa.
"Let countries now take this spirit of goodwill and tackle the ivory that is being haemorrhaged illegally from West and Central Africa.”