CITES ban on trade in ivory questioned, described as emotional, unscientific

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By Leopold Munhende, Chief Reporter

STATES represented at the recently ended Elephant Summit in Hwange have agreed, decisions to block their trade in ivory by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are no longer scientific but just emotional.

The four day summit was centred on getting countries in sub Saharan Africa to speak with one voice in their push for lifting of the CITES ban which has left them with stocks of ivory worth hundreds of millions, they cannot sell.

Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana which have all exceeded their elephant carrying capacity adopted a Hwange Declaration on the Conservation of the African Elephant, further calling on countries in similar predicaments to support their call.

“The conference aimed to reach a consensus on sustainable elephant management practices that benefit both elephants and local communities,” read the media communique produced after their four day meeting.

“The conference agreed that there is a need for long-term funding for wildlife conservation from a variety of sources, including but not limited to wildlife trade.

“The conference agreed that current CITES decisions are no longer scientific but based on votes and emotions. As such there is need to review the convention and ensure it serves its intended purpose.”

Last week environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told journalists Zimbabwe could quit CITES if it failed to allow them to sell their 130 tonnes of elephant ivory and 67 tonnes of rhino horns.

“We are now faced with a situation where Hwange national park will see significant casualties of our elephants because there is simply not enough habitat. The sad reality is that the smaller companies will die first because it will be a survival of the fittest,” Ndlovu said.

“We need to manage the population and we are left with limited choices. If this CITES is not decisive on this critical matter we will be left with no choice than to either go the culling way or maybe consider engaging our affairs outside CITES.”

His statement followed futile attempts to court support from European ambassadors who had been invited to a tour of facilities holding the stockpile.

A boom in the elephant population is endangering lives of humans as a result of increased human to wildlife conflicts.