Botswana has become the second country in southern Africa announcing that it is prepared to pull out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), if it isn’t allowed to sell some of its ivory stockpile and elephant by-products.
CITES is the international treaty that protects endangered species.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital Gaborone on June 1st, 2022, the Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Dr. Kabelo Senyatso confirmed that Botswana was ready to quit CITES.
Neighboring Zimbabwe recently also announced that it was considering to quit CITES if it is not allowed to sell its stockpile.
Fielding questions from reporters following his return from the elephant summit in Zimbabwe, Senyatso said, “There is nothing stopping us from quitting. The mandate that has been given to us (given mandate to quit by government) is to withdraw from that, if needs be.”
He said they have since identified some other parties to the convention who are willing to leave CITES.
Senyatso said they would weigh the option to quit or remain members of CITES after the meeting of the international organisations scheduled for November this year wherein their proposal would be submitted. The DWNP called on CITES not to categorize elephants as one saying there are two different species of elephants. “We have forest elephants which are found in the Western part of Africa. In southern Africa we have the Savannah elephants. What happens is that when there is civil war in West Africa the numbers of elephants decline and the number of Savannah elephants in our region increases. This information will be included in our proposal,” said Senyatso. He said those who compile reports “don’t mention which ones or which part of Africa those declining numbers are from.”
“In West and Central Africa those sharp declines are occurring while in Southern Africa the numbers are increasing,” reiterated Senyatso. He said the result is that cases of human/wildlife conflict are on the rise.
He added that plans are at an advanced stage for southern African nations to conduct a coordinated count in the region.
According to Senyatso, Botswana and other countries in the southern African region do not anticipate any economic sanctions from countries in the West or any part of the world. “We anticipate campaigns from Western Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which are divorced from realities on the ground. Unfortunately their arguments are based on emotions rather than scientific evidence,” said Senyatso.
He also called on CITES to be “Science based because it is only emotions on the table.”
He said Botswana and other countries opted to become members of CITES and therefore are not bound by anything if they opt to quit.
“So when we quit CITES we will be trading with willing buyers but doing it in the manner that is acceptable,” said Senyatso. He said Botswana and other southern African nations want to be allowed to trade not only in ivory stockpiles but also in elephant by-products.
“According to CITES regulations, we are only allowed to trade in elephant byproducts locally and not export them to the international market,” he said. Senyatso said it has proved expensive for Botswana and other nations in the southern African region to keep stockpiles.
“The marking of elephant tasks has proved to be costly and storerooms where ivory is kept should be at a certain temperature. We are spending millions of Pula in a year,” he said.