CITES should lift ban on ivory trade

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

ZIM­BABWE and other Sadc coun­tries are en­gaged in a bruis­ing bat­tle with an­i­mal rights ac­tivists at the on­go­ing 17th Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties (COP17) to the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species (CITES) which kicked off in South Africa at the week­end. Zim­babwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa want to be al­lowed to re­sume ivory trad­ing to beef up their con­ser­va­tion bud­gets while con­ser­va­tion groups such as the World Wildlife Fund are lead­ing a strong lobby to keep the ban in place.

Ac­cord­ing to a CITES state­ment, par­ties will be con­sid­er­ing 62 pro­pos­als to in­crease or de­crease con­trols on in­ter­na­tional trade in wildlife and wildlife prod­ucts dur­ing the con­fer­ence at the Sand­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Pro­pos­als have been sub­mit­ted by 64 par­ties from around the world and in to­tal, close to 500 species may be af­fected by th­ese pro­posed changes.

Among the species in­volved are the 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.

Th­ese coun­tries face a mam­moth task of win­ning at least a two-thirds ma­jor­ity to ad­vance their pro­posal to trade in ivory. Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours are on edge and have been con­duct­ing spir­ited cam­paigns to ad­vance their ar­gu­ments with En­vi­ron­ment, Wa­ter and Cli­mate Min­is­ter Op­pah Muchin­guri-Kashiri lead­ing a strong Zim­bab­wean con­tin­gent at COP 17.

Ad­dress­ing the me­dia at the week­end, Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri rub­bished Western pro­pos­als aimed at in­flu­enc­ing CITES to ef­fect a blan­ket re­stric­tion on the com­mer­cial trade of wildlife, say­ing the pro­posal smacks of im­pe­ri­al­is­tic ten­den­cies that seek to un­der­mine the sovereignty of African states. She noted that it was sad that some Western pow­ers were fail­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate sus­tain­able use of wildlife as a key pil­lar to suc­cess­ful con­ser­va­tion meth­ods.

“In this re­gard, pro­pos­als that have been put for­ward by some mem­ber states that seek to re­strict in­ter­na­tional trade in wildlife such as the African ele­phant and African lion de­feat this no­ble con­ser­va­tion method. The pro­pos­als fail to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the im­por­tant role that com­mu­ni­ties play in wildlife con­ser­va­tion,” Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri said.

She added: “Some of the pro­pos­als tabled here at COP 17 seek to close do­mes­tic mar­kets for ivory trade. This pro­posal is a clear in­fringe­ment on the sov­er­eign rights of na­tions. Do­mes­tic trade of wildlife species is out­side the scope of the con­ven­tion and should re­main as such.

“The pre­am­ble of the CITES Con­ven­tion recog­nises that ‘Mem­ber States are and should be the best pro­tec­tors of their own wild flora and fauna’. The prin­ci­ples of the con­ven­tion should there­fore be the over­ar­ch­ing guide­line in sub­mit­ting pro­pos­als at CITES COPs.”

Min­is­ter Muchin­guri-Kashiri warned that should CITES rub­ber stamp the pro­posal, a calamity awaited mem­bers states with the largest pop­u­la­tions of the African ele­phants.

“Com­mu­ni­ties need to con­tinue re­al­is­ing ben­e­fits from sus­tain­able wildlife man­age­ment. With­out mean­ing­ful ben­e­fits ac­cru­ing to com­mu­ni­ties from wildlife util­i­sa­tion and man­age­ment, com­mu­ni­ties have lit­tle rea­son to pro­tect and con­serve wildlife. As such this may put the species that we wish to pro­tect un­der se­vere stress from poach­ing and their sur­vival will no longer be en­sured,” said the Min­is­ter.

We agree with the Min­is­ter that Zim­babwe should be al­lowed to ben­e­fit from its nat­u­ral re­sources. Com­mu­ni­ties that live with prob­lem an­i­mals are bear­ing the brunt of hu­man­wildlife con­flict and we feel it is only fair that they ben­e­fit from sus­tain­able util­i­sa­tion of re­sources. In this re­gard, we urge the con­fer­ence of par­ties to CITES to al­low rea­son and not emo­tions to guide them as they de­lib­er­ate on this is­sue.

They should take cog­ni­sance of the fact that South­ern Africa has two thirds of the ele­phant pop­u­la­tion in Africa and Zim­babwe alone has 83 000 ele­phants within its ecosys­tems. Lions and rhino pop­u­la­tions in South­ern Africa are also steady and grow­ing in some ar­eas and this is a clear in­di­ca­tion that Zim­babwe and other Sadc coun­tries have suc­cess­fully pro­tected and con­served their wildlife re­sources. 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 and this stock­pile should be dis­posed and the money chan­nelled to con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

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