Doha: A bid by Tanzania to sell 80.5 tonnes of stockpiled ivory to Japan and China was rejected Monday by the UN body that oversees trade in wildlife.
A separate proposal to downlist Tanzania`s elephants to a lower level of protection under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting in Doha through Thursday, was also shot down after tense debate.
"We are sitting on a treasure that we are not allowed to use to help our population, to help the poor build schools and roads," said Stanslaus Komba, from Tanzania`s ministry of Natural Resources.
Similar measures sought by Zambia will be considered and likely voted on later Monday.
The CITES secretariat had recommended the rejection of Tanzania`s pleas, citing a poor enforcement of poaching and illegal sales domestically.
The bids from both countries come amid renewed poaching of the majestic animals, and a dramatic surge in seizures of illegal ivory in 2009.
Some 25 tonnes of ivory -- culled from an estimated 2,600 elephants -- were confiscated last year, mainly in Asia, according to wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC.
Except for populations in four southern African nations, African elephants in two dozen other range states are all listed on CITES Appendix I, which bans cross-border trade.
Tanzania sought a downlisting to the less restrictive Appendix II, which allows commerce if it is monitored and deemed sustainable.
The one-time sale would have netted about 13 million dollars (9.5 million euros) for Tanzania, said TRAFFIC. Komba said the stock is worth 20 million dollars.
The last such sale took place in 2008 by Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and set the clock running on a nine-year moratorium on international ivory sales, agreed upon at the last CITES gathering in 2007.
The recent surge in seizures by law enforcement has caused experts to question whether one-off sales stimulate illegal trade rather than stem it, as was once thought.
"Governments made the right decision by rejecting Tanzania`s proposals," said WWF Head of Species Programme Dr. Carlos Drews.
"It is not the right time to be approving ivory sales due to increased elephant poaching and in central and western Africa."
Both proposals by Tanzania fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
In a separate proposal, some two dozen other African range countries are seeking to extend the moratorium