A heated debate is expected at the upcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg as Africa is divided on whether to allow trade on elephant ivory， experts said on Tuesday.
This emerged from a press briefing presented in Johannesburg by three researchers from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).
The conference is scheduled for September 24 to October 5 this year. South Africa， Zimbabwe and Namibia have made a joint a proposal to have a ban on international trade on ivory to be lifted.
Zimbabwe and Namibia have also made a bid to have the elephants completely removed from the CITES protection altogether.
A majority of sixty-six percent is required to adopt a proposal.
The international ban on ivory trade was introduced in 1989. The African Elephant Coalition is calling for the destruction of existing ivory stockpile.
Another senior researcher from SAIIA， Yu-Shan Wu， said the commitment made by the U.S. and China in September 2015 will boost the fight against illegal trade in ivory.
Wu said it is necessary for the people to be educated why the ban is imposed.
She said， “Some countries in Southeast Asia worship elephants and they have a religious significance on them.”
Wu， a South African of Chinese descent， said China has also shown commitment to fighting illegal trade on ivory by discussing it with Africa last December during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit.
She said Chinese celebrities have also been involved in sending messages against illegal ivory trade.
She praised Botswana as a good example of using local communities to manage natural resources like elephants.
She said they use the natural resources for tourism and get the incentives from that.
Africa has lost over 27，000 elephants annually since 2012， according to the Elephant Census.
Elephants will be on the agenda on the CITES conference.
Many proposals will be considered to reach a consensus at the end.