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Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his counterparts in Africa about (a) elephant populations and (b) the ivory trade in preparation for the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference. (137678)

I met with Marthinus Van Schalkwyk the South African Minister last June and we discussed issues of elephant management among other issues. Although visa difficulties prevented officials from Kenya, Mali, Chad, Ghana, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo from meeting me last month, they did meet environment officials in the UK's permanent representation in Brussels, who passed their briefing to my Department. However, last year DEFRA officials met the Honourable Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, the Botswana Minister for Environment and Tourism, on 8 November when he was in London, to hear that country's perspective. I also met Michael Wamithi (IFAW's global elephant habitat programme manager) on 28 November 2006.

We are in constant touch with non-governmental organisations and experts in elephant conservation to ensure we have a full and rounded picture of the issues involved. A DEFRA official will also be attending the African elephant dialogue meeting which will take place immediately before the CITES conference, the outcome of which will influence the EU/UK position on the proposals to be discussed at the Conference.