Botswana’s proposal to be allowed to sell its huge stockpile of elephant ivory was defeated on Thursday last week at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
At the ongoing 18th meeting of CITES in Switzerland, which happens every three years, Botswana together with Namibia and Zimbabwe had attempted to sway other countries in voting for the proposal to allow the countries to sell their stockpiled ivory, with sales proceeds going towards wildlife management and community programmes. However, the Southern African countries were stopped in their tracks by CITES member states, led by other African countries who were against the proposal.
The writing was already in the wall that Botswana’s proposal to have the sale of ivory relaxed was going to be a hard sell. Earlier during the week, CITES member states voted for a proposal to amend a resolution to limit the trade in live, wild-caught African elephants to range countries only. The biggest markets for captured wild elephants are China and the United States of America (USA). The move to back the proposal was largely seen as an indicator that Botswana’s bid was dead on arrival.
The diamond rich and landlocked country has the world’s largest herds of elephants estimated around 200,000 came under fire when it decided to lift the hunting ban this year. The timing of the decision came shortly after a damning report by Dr. Mike Chase which disclosed that there was rampart poaching of elephants in the country. However, faced with the growing human wildlife conflict, the Botswana government argued that the lifting of the hunting ban can mitigate against the growing number of elephants that are now venturing in community territories.
Still at the same meeting, a proposal for ending domestic ivory markets also suffered a defeat. The proposal to call for domestic market closures had been brought forward by a coalition of mostly African nations that included Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, and the Syrian Arab Republic.
The European Union and Japan are some of the countries that have kept their domestic ivory markets, with the latter’s domestic ivory market described by the wildlife monitoring group Traffic as “one of the largest in the world”, according to report by National Geographic.
“Legal ivory markets and a lack of action against large illegal markets in certain countries continue to provide opportunities for criminal syndicates to traffic ivory,” Matt Collis, head of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s delegation to CITES, said in a statement following the vote. “We urge countries whose legal domestic markets remain open, particularly Japan and the EU, to close them as a matter of urgency, and hope they will be in a position to report back on such steps at the next CITES conference.”