GABORONE (Reuters) - African and Asian countries agreed measures on Tuesday to curb the illegal trade in ivory which threatens to decimate Africa's elephant population, organizers of a conservation conference said.
The "African Elephant Summit" issued a list of measures that governments had agreed to, including setting tough sentences for poaching and trafficking, better monitoring of elephant numbers and illegal trade in ivory, and more cross-border cooperation.
"Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act," said Ian Khama, president of Botswana, which hosted the conference convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Poaching has risen in recent years across sub-Saharan Africa, where armed criminal gangs kill elephants for tusks that are often shipped to Asia for use in ornaments.
Ivory from Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia is often trafficked to China and Thailand via Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Eighteen large scale seizures involving more than 40 metric tons (44.092 tons) of ivory have been recorded so far this year, representing the greatest quantity of ivory seized in the last 25 years.
The African elephant, the world's largest terrestrial mammal, is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN "red list" of threatened species, with a population estimated at around 500,000 animals.
(Writing by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)