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CITES banned trade in ivory in 1989, but some African nations won permission to sell ivory in 1999. Another sale was authorized in 2002.

Mr. Amman said the focus on the ivory trade overlooks the bigger issue of the sale of elephant meat. Mr. Amman, joined by a journalist from the Associated Press, was able to document how wildlife meat, including elephant, is being sold across the border between the Central African Republic and Congo.

Government officials on both sides collect taxes on the trade, even though the business is illegal under international law. Tax collectors and more senior officials declined to answer questions about the trade or tax system.

Until governments act, the elephant population will remain in danger, Mr. Amman said.

“Better law enforcement and better governance is the underlying issue of most of the problems in Central Africa,” Mr. Amman said.

Desire Loa, a former park ranger who turned poacher, said the trade is so profitable that government officials are behind most poaching, hiring Pygmies and providing them with rifles to kill elephants.

“It’s important officials who pay for this now, and take Pygmies to be the hunters … because they’re the ones who have money,” he said.

c Associated Press writer Anthony Mitchell contributed to this story from Bangui, Central African Republic, before his death in a plane crash last month.