Zim­babwe, Sadc brace for tough CITES ne­go­ti­a­tions

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/feature - Sife­lani Tsiko

ZIM­BABWE and other Sadc coun­tries are due to go up against tough op­po­nents when 182 par­ties gather for the world’s most im­por­tant wildlife trade con­fer­ence – the 17th Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties (CoP17) to the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species (CITES) that kicks off in South Africa on Septem­ber 24.

With a record num­ber of pro­pos­als and agenda items, the stage is now set for a bruis­ing fight where Zim­babwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa want to win rights to al­low them to re­sume ivory trad­ing to beef up their con­ser­va­tion bud­gets.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est CITES state­ment, par­ties will be con­sid­er­ing 62 pro­pos­als to in­crease or de­crease con­trols on in­ter­na­tional trade in wildlife and wildlife prod­ucts.

Pro­pos­als have been sub­mit­ted by 64 Par­ties from around the world.

In to­tal, close to 500 species may be af­fected by these pro­posed changes. Amongst the species in­volved are African ele­phant, white rhi­noc­eros, lion, pan­golins, silky and thresher sharks, devil rays, as well as many species of rose­wood, croc­o­diles, birds, frogs, lizards, tur­tles and other an­i­mals and plants.

But it is the African ele­phant and lions that are of ma­jor con­cern to Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours in the Sadc re­gion.

Stiff op­po­si­tion by the World Wildlife Fund, the lead­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in wildlife con­ser­va­tion and en­dan­gered species, an­i­mal rights ac­tivists and other coun­tries to al­low trade in ivory has high­lighted the un­prece­dented chal­lenge Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours face in win­ning at least a two-thirds ma­jor­ity to ad­vance their pro­posal to trade in ivory.

CoP 17 is a bat­tle-rid­den con­fer­ence that will run in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa, from Septem­ber 24 to Oc­to­ber 5, 2016.

Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours are on edge and have been con­duct­ing spir­ited cam­paigns to ad­vance their ar­gu­ments.

En­vi­ron­ment, Wa­ter and Cli­mate Min­is­ter Op­pah Muchin­guri-Kashiri, in a com­pre­hen­sive re­port de­tail­ing Zim­babwe’s case at COP17, says the up-list­ing of the African ele­phant may po­ten­tially de­rail con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

“We be­lieve that chan­nel­ing our ef­forts to­wards ef­fec­tive anti-poach­ing and wildlife crime curb­ing is the most fun­da­men­tal is­sue of con­cern, rather than “de­val­u­a­tion” of the species al­to­gether through up-list­ing to Ap­pendix 1. Such mea­sures have his­tor­i­cally proven to be in­ef­fec­tive,” says Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri.

At present, there is a legally bind­ing ban on com­mer­cial in­ter­na­tional ivory trade.

Ac­cord­ing to CITES, while the ele­phant pop­u­la­tions of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zim­babwe are cur­rently on Ap­pendix II, a spe­cific an­no­ta­tion deems all ivory from these pop­u­la­tions as be­ing on Ap­pendix I – so all com­mer­cial in­ter­na­tional trade in the ivory of African ele­phants is cur­rently pro­hib­ited un­der CITES.

Wildlife ex­perts note that mov­ing these four coun­tries’ ele­phant pop­u­la­tions to Ap­pendix I would not al­ter the cur­rent ban.

They say this could only be lifted by a two-thirds ma­jor­ity vote at a CITES CoP.

Namibia and Zim­babwe are seek­ing to se­cure this in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Zim­babwe pro­poses to amend the an­no­ta­tion that is cur­rently af­fect­ing the coun­try’s trade in ivory. It wants to grow its tourism in­dus­try through the sus­tain­able util­i­sa­tion of its wildlife re­sources.

The south­ern African coun­try is also seek­ing to be al­lowed to sell fully grown ele­phants, calves and their prod­ucts such as tusks, skin hides and meat to both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional buy­ers.

Zim­bab­wean wildlife au­thor­i­ties say the ele­phant is one of the ma­jor hunt­ing tourism draw card and has earned the coun­try some $22 mil­lion in 2014 and 2015.

It con­trib­utes about 20 per­cent a year to the Zim­babwe Parks and Wildlife Man­age­ment Author­ity’s rev­enue.

Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri says the an­nual off­take quo­tas pro­vided through CITES is 500 ele­phants per year and this has con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to Zim­babwe’s con­ser­va­tion bud­get. She ar­gues that trade bans are counter-pro­duc­tive. “They ac­tu­ally tend to cre­ate a scarcity value and serve to drive the ivory prices through the roof,” says the En­vi­ron­ment, Wa­ter and Cli­mate Min­is­ter.

“CITES should adopt a sep­a­rate ap­proval process where coun­tries like Zim­babwe with grow­ing pop­u­la­tions should re­main in Ap­pendix II with­out an­no­ta­tions while coun­tries with de­plet­ing ele­phant pop­u­la­tions should be lifted to Ap­pendix I to en­able growth of their pop­u­la­tions.”

Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours are fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle at the forth­com­ing CITES.

Benin, Burk­ina Faso, Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nige­ria, Sene­gal, Uganda and Sri Lanka have re­port­edly sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als seek­ing the trans­fer of the African ele­phant pop­u­la­tions of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zim­babwe from Ap­pendix II to I.

Fur­ther­more, these coun­tries and oth­ers on the con­ti­nent are mak­ing the case for Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours pre­car­i­ous by seek­ing a bat­tery of mea­sures that in­clude clos­ing do­mes­tic mar­kets for ele­phant ivory, burn­ing ivory stock­piles and a ban on live ele­phant trade.

“If these coun­tries’ pro­posal wins at CITES COP17, there will be a ban on trade in our ele­phants,” says Min­is­ter Muchin­guri

She says Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours en­counter tough op­po­si­tion be­cause of po­lit­i­cal rather than sci­en­tific con­sid­er­a­tions.

In ad­di­tion, she be­moans the heavy and dom­i­nated pres­ence of what she says is the “well­funded Green Lobby”.

“De­vel­op­ing coun­tries usu­ally strug­gle to par­tic­i­pate ef­fec­tively, which fact the green lobby takes ad­van­tage of,” says Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri.

“Zim­babwe be­lieves CITES should not adopt a one-size-fits-all ap­proach and each case should be dealt with on its own mer­its. The counter pro­pos­als are not in their en­tirety a true re­flec­tion of the ele­phant sit­u­a­tion in Africa, as we have coun­tries like our­selves bat­tling with large pop­u­la­tions and over-abun­dances in a lot of ar­eas.”

De­spite stiff op­po­si­tion, Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours have also man­aged to sal­vage some sup­port.

While on a re­cent visit to Zim­babwe, African Wildlife Foun­da­tion (AWF) pres­i­dent, Kaddu Kiwe Se­bunya, said Africa needs to ben­e­fit sub­stan­tially from its wildlife re­sources to cre­ate an in­cen­tive for its cit­i­zens to pro­tect the con­ti­nent’s rich wildlife her­itage which it has suc­cess­fully pro­tected for ages.

“The only way to pro­tect wildlife and wildlife places in Africa, is for Africans to ben­e­fit di­rectly from the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of their nat­u­ral re­sources,” said Se­bunya.

“We are very clear on that. The prin­ci­ple of this is very clear…..un­less Africans ben­e­fit from wildlife, we are not able to main­tain the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of wildlife.”

Se­bunya says Africa must unite in a broad and strong push for long over­due wildlife sec­tor re­forms that aim to strengthen its pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion strate­gies while at the same time fash­ion­ing in­no­va­tive ways for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to de­rive ben­e­fits and pros­per from the sus­tain­able use of its wildlife re­sources.

As African coun­tries move to­wards the COP17 in South Africa, he says, it is crit­i­cal that the con­ti­nent’s wildlife and wild land­scapes which con­trib­ute to Africa’s moral and fi­nan­cial bot­tom line be a part of the “African voice” at the global gath­er­ing.

“Con­ser­va­tion is not an end to it­self; con­ser­va­tion must be for the ben­e­fit of Africans. Those ben­e­fits must be ex­plained to Africans. We are los­ing a lot of ele­phants be­cause the ben­e­fits have not been ex­plained to Africans,” says Se­bunya.

Zim­babwe and most other African coun­tries have not ben­e­fited sub­stan­tially from the wildlife re­source sec­tor due to poor man­age­ment, le­gal and in­sti­tu­tional weak­nesses as well as other fac­tors re­lated to CITES ban on tourism mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion of wildlife prod­ucts.

It is large multi­na­tion­als and other wildlife poach­ing syn­di­cates that con­tinue to reap huge ben­e­fits that come with wildlife re­sources. Africa loses 30 000 ele­phants a year ex­clud­ing other wild an­i­mals.

In ad­di­tion, Zim­babwe and a few other Sadc coun­tries are sit­ting on tonnes of ivory which they can­not dis­pose ow­ing to a CITES ban. Zim­babwe has 96 000 tonnes es­ti­mated to be worth close to $100 mil­lion.

Most south­ern African coun­tries which in­clude Zim­babwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zam­bia, Tan­za­nia and South Africa have al­ways sup­ported the pro­posal to re­view of the ban on trade in ivory.

Sadc coun­tries of­ten stand nearly alone in op­pos­ing the de­struc­tion of il­le­gal ivory stock­piles and a to­tal ban on ivory trade among a slew of mea­sures widely be­lieved to com­bat poach­ing.

The coun­tries will want to press for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the de­vel­op­ment of a de­ci­sion-mak­ing process for the trade in ivory.

Pres­sure from west­ern coun­tries and oth­ers across the globe to to­tally ban tro­phy hunt­ing and trade in ivory and ivory prod­ucts has been roundly con­demned by wildlife and en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­perts in Zim­babwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.

But op­po­nents to these coun­tries ar­gue strongly that ac­cept­ing their pro­pos­als would in­ad­ver­tently open the door to ivory trade at a time when there is an un­prece­dented spike in poach­ing and il­le­gal wildlife trade which is threat­en­ing to dec­i­mate the con­ti­nent’s rich wildlife re­source base.

They also say poach­ing is threat­en­ing the sur­vival of ele­phants, rhi­nos, chee­tahs, lions, hip­pos and a whole list of other an­i­mals still found on the con­ti­nent.

“Do­ing oth­er­wise would un­der­mine the in­tegrity of the Con­ven­tion, weak­en­ing fu­ture pro­tec­tions for count­less threat­ened species,” read part of the WWF state­ment re­leased ahead of the CITES con­fer­ence. – Zim­pa­pers Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices.

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