Tanzania to auction 3 tons of hippo teeth, despite criticism

JOHANNESBURG — Authorities in Tanzania plan an auction of 3.5 tons of hippo teeth next week, drawing criticism from conservation groups who say the sale could encourage increased killing of the vulnerable species for its body parts.

Licensed dealers on Monday can bid for the 12,500 pieces of hippo teeth at the tourism and natural resources ministry in the East African nation's commercial hub of Dar es Salaam, according to Tanzanian wildlife authorities. Buyers will receive documents confirming ownership.

Many hippo populations across Africa face intense pressure from hunting for their ivory and meat, the WWF conservation group said.

"Therefore, even though some countries still have healthy populations, WWF discourages the consumption of hippopotamus ivory and are disappointed to see auctions such as this taking place," said Colman O'Criodain, a WWF expert in wildlife trade.

Another conservation group, Born Free, said it was concerned there could be more demand for hippo ivory as efforts to end the trafficking of elephant ivory intensify.

China, long the world's largest consumer of elephant ivory, announced a ban on its trade that took effect at the beginning of this year.

An international "red list" of endangered species classifies the hippo as vulnerable and estimates there are up to 130,000 hippos in sub-Saharan Africa. Hippo teeth are carved into ornaments for sale in parts of Asia.

A regulated trade in hippo parts is allowed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

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Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris

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