Minister of Wildlife and Tourism, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, will represent Botswana at the upcoming 15th conference of parties to CITES scheduled for the 13-25th March in Doha, Qatar.
Mokaila said the proposed scope calls for the extension of the ban on selling of legal ivory from the agreed 9 to 20 years as well as the extension of the ban to cover all the African elephant range states.
The purpose of the conference is for Botswana and other affected countries to argue the Kenya proposal to extend the scope of the annotation for the listing of the elephant population of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Botswana has called for 9 years while Kenya had said it be 20 years.
“The elephant proposal by Kenya and her allies is against the spirit of international cooperation and it is intended to undermine the consensus reached at COP14. It also undermines the effort invested by all the African Range States and Donor countries who participated in the development of the African elephant action plan in Mombasa and Gigiri in Kenya,” he said, adding that it is not very clear how an extended ban would be more successful than the current one as trade in ivory is effectively prohibited, except for the experimental trade that took place in 1999 and 2008.
“The proposal undermines the successful conservation efforts by the southern African countries and negatively affects rural communities who coexist with the elephants and are also victims of poverty,” said Mokaila.
The Minister further said since the 9-year moratorium, they have not seen the outcome, apart from escalating numbers of elephants, which means great impact on people and vegetation.
“Apart from that, it contributes to no financial assistance hence no ivory sale. However, Kenya and other countries on Appendix 1 argue that major sale of ivory increases illegal poaching and also a decrease on their elephants hence no ivory,” he added.
He also said, “We had our last sale of ivory in October 2008 and made P57 million out of 43 tonnes of ivory sold.”
Mokaila said the proceeds from these sales go to the Conservation Trust Fund where 70 percent of it is ploughed into elephant conservation, while the 30 percent is used in community development projects. He told Sunday Standard that they are also taking to Qatar the history of Botswana, how they can diversify the economy and improve livelihoods of the population of the country.
“We are not only going to compromise with other countries opposed to ivory trade as much as we respect their rights, but we are going to argue our case as it is punishment to us who succeed in conserving our natural resources,” he said.
The minister said that Botswana is lobbying other southern African range states whose elephants are listed under Appendix II to support that a window of ivory trade be left to enable it to dispose of her ivory stock piles accruing from natural mortality after the nine years agreed at COP 14.
He also asserted that Botswana is strongly opposed to the proposal by Kenya and her allies and maintains that the original text of the elephant annotation as adopted at the 14th Conference of parties is retained and all the adopted decisions relating to listing of the African elephant be implemented as agreed.
“Anything otherwise does serve to ridicule the CITES decision-making process hence should not be allowed to see the light of day,” he said.