BY CALISTUS BOSALETSWE
There are fears that animal right organisations and western countries are armed to the teeth to oppose Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe’s intention to sell ivory.
Leaders of the five countries who established Kavango Zambezi Tranfontreir Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) to ease the movement of elephants and other wildlife species have lambasted the western countries and wildlife animal groups for meddling in how they should manage elephants.
Some of the wildlife animal groups have not objected the move while others have objected the four countries move to table a proposal to sell stockpiled ivory from elephants succumbed to natural deaths.
The four countries who have agreed to form a block that will present a proposal at Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES) that was to take place in Sri Lanka have accused the animal rights organization and western countries of sabotaging countries that almost host half of the African elephants population.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi who has been courting the other three member states to convince CITES to allow them to sell stockpile ivory has warned that they should anticipate that their proposal is likely to be vigorously opposed.
“Illegal trade has as a matter of fact increased tremendously during the nine year moratorium on international trade that expired in 2017. By agreeing to the moratorium, countries whose populations are on Appendix II, have in fact suspended their inalienable right to bring trade proposals to the CITES Conference of Parties for consideration,” added Masisi.
He indicated that ivory stocks held by four countries have continued to grow at an exponential rate. The president went further to state that the security and management of the sizeable ivory stocks most of which came from natural mortalities are a great cost to the countries. Masisi further indicated that the closure of legal ivory trade markets continues to create additional challenges to future efforts to dispose of these stockpiles. He also noted the need for deeper stakeholder conversations on the sale of stockpile ivory in an objective and realistic manner.
He was of the view that the sale of ivory is not the first issue to happen since countries whose elephant populations are on appendix II have been actively lobbying to utilize elephant by-products, including ivory, to generate revenue which can be used to manage their elephants. “This has been successful including the last one-off sales for Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The revenues accrued from these sales were used for elephant conservation and community development, added Masisi.
He also emphasized that Botswana will support Zambia proposal to down-list their elephant population to Appendix II. In his views the Zambian population certainly does not meet the Appendix I criteria. He went further to state that their intention is to support the proposal at the upcoming CITES Conference of Parties (CoP) in Sri Lanka.
“In the same vein, we will actively lobby support of other CITES Parties to support the proposal by the four Appendix II range states to remove redundant annotations from our listings. Of course we should anticipate that the proposal to up list our elephants will be vigorously opposed,” added Masisi.
He noted that as four countries go to CITES Conference of Parties they should be aware that the conditions for trade in elephants and their derivatives have been the subject of much debate particularly with regard to the restrictions placed on elephant populations in Southern Africa despite an Appendix listing allowing commercial trade.
Meanwhile President of Namibia Hage Gottfriend Geinghob showered Masisi for convening the Elephant Summit with objective of creating a common understanding and shared vision towards the sustainable management of our elephants. I also thank all Heads of State and Government for their presence here today.
He indicated that Namibia has been known for complying with requirements from the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and contributed to the development of a rigorous trade control system. He said as a result Namibia successfully exported raw ivory between 1999 and 2008 proving that with adequate controls and strict enforcement measures ivory can be traded legally.
He indicated that Namibia has taken note of the ongoing debate and criticism on elephant population management and status for Botswana and affirms their support to the new policies and programmes on elephant population management and sustainable use which have been developed by us all , as KAZA Partner States.
“We express concern over the cost and security implications of holding large ivory stocks and reiterate our favorable stance towards legal international trade of ivory from which proceeds would be utilized to support elephant conservation and rural conservation programmes.
I am further pleased to report that Namibia has nearly completed the projects under Phase I and II of the Kavango Zambezi Tran frontier Conservation Area Agreement (KAZA TFCA) and encourage ratification of the Treaty by all five Partner States. I further use this opportunity to call for renewed commitment to resourcing the KAZA Fund so as to enable the full and timely implementation of our shared objectives,” ‘added Geinghob.
He hit back at western countries for criticizing Southern African countries on the management of elephants despite that they don’t have elephants. He said that they should come and learn more about sound management of elephants as opposed to dictating to them how they should manage elephants.