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A game warden passes stacked elephant tusks at the National Parks of Zimbabwe headquarters in Harare. (European Pressphoto Agency)

Zimbabwe leads SADC ivory sale bid ahead of CoP19

Zimbabwe leads SADCs ivory bid

HARARE – Zimbabwe has invited several African states to converge in the country’s northwest mining town of Hwange, later this month, with the view of forging alliances to push a fresh appeal for the sale of ivory, ahead of the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP19).

Previous proposals by Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia to resume international sales of ivory stockpiles have been rejected by member states at CITES, which prohibits unregulated commercial trade in endangered species around the world.

At the 18th global wildlife summit in 2019, the proposal by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe was rejected by 101 votes, with 23 in support and 18 abstentions.

Speaking after that failed bid, Matt Collis, IFAW’s Director of International Policy, and then head of IFAW’s delegation at CITES, said IFAW was delighted governments at CITES had chosen to reject “repeating a failed experiment.”

“Poaching skyrocketed across Africa after the last ivory stockpile sales back in 2008,” he said then.

Southern African states, which are home to about 200,000 elephants, half of the total number still roaming earth, continue to argue that selling off their ivory stock piles will fund conservation efforts.

Zimbabwe’s deputy environment minister, Barbara Rwodzi, said the Hwange ivory conference set to be held between May 23 and 26, will set the foundation for a renewed ivory sale bid.

“We are saying lets come together before Cop19….We are going to host an elephant conference with other countries who have elephants because we want to have one voice,” Rwodzi said.

“We only have a capacity of having 40 000 elephants but because we have excellent conservation programme, the herd has grown to 90 000 and it’s causing problems,” she added.

Zimbabwe’s Government believes lifting restrictions in the sale of the country’s stockpile will fund conservation for the next 20 years.

That way, they say, the country will not need to carry a begging bowl to finance conservation of its wildlife heritage.

“As a country, we have not fully benefited from such a huge (elephant) population due to various restrictions including international ivory trade,” Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu, said in February.

“We will therefore continue to work with like-minded nations to push for decisions that promote the growth and stability of our wildlife populations. We also call for CITES Parties to make science based decisions rather than populist decisions whose long term effects threaten the same species we seek to protect,” he added.

Activists say Zimbabwe’s bid will fall flat on its face, alleging existing conservation mechanisms have shown that they are susceptible to corruption and capture, adding lifting of restrictions will drive elephant populations to extinction.

“They are trying to influence southern African neighbours and parts of Africa but most of the world does not want it to happen,” animal rights activist Sharon Hole told Zim Morning Post.

“Not so long ago, ZimParks told the Parliament of Zimbabwe that it sold an individual elephant at US$32,000 yet one elephant sale price can reach US$100 000. This tip of the iceberg shows the system cannot be trusted,” she added.

ZimParks argue, there are signed agreements for such transactions and everything is audited.

This year, the 19th meeting of CITES (CoP19) will be held from 14 to 25 November 2022 in Panama.
Governments around the world will gather to review and make decisions on the regulation of trade in endangered species.