Zimbabwe is lobbying its neighbours to speak with one voice in order to retain the right to trade in ivory and high value animal hides ahead of the CITES meeting in September.
Frantic lobbying by powerful nations ahead of the convention could see an end to the centuries old culture of hunting of elephant and lion in Southern African and a trade ban on these animals’ products.
CITES is an agreement between 182 governments. It aims to ensure that the international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Behind the walls of a high security compound, millions of dollars worth of elephant tusks and rhino horns are gathering dust.
Today, Zimbabwe is opening the doors of this warehouse to the world , to try to lobby governments against pushing for a total ban on trade.
It has been able to sell limited elephant ivory to dealers for trinkets and jewellery. It wants to be able to sell its 93 tonne of stockpile on the open market.
The CITES conference to discuss the proposals is just months away.
ZimParks Director General, Edson Chidziya says, “We hope it is going to be a fair process, as long as there is no evidence to say your quota is not having any negative impact on the survival of these populations in the wild there shouldn’t be any issues, but again given the background in which these topics are going to be discussed these will not be science based, it will be based on politics, it will be based on emotions.”
If countries like Kenya, and those in Central and Western Africa have their way, the stockpiles would go up in smoke.
Last month, Kenya destroyed 106 tonnes of elephant and rhino horns.
It is leading the lobby to upgrade elephants and lions to the most endangered species list. This would end Southern African Development Community’s trade in these products and force stockpiles to be destroyed.
Swaziland has $10 million of rhino horn it wants to sell. Zimbabwe has 93 tonnes of tusks and says burning is not an option.
Wildlife Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri says, “We are expecting during the CITES, the 10 year moratorium that was imposed will be able to be relaxed, so that we sell and use that for conservation programmes and to empower our communities.”
Following the poaching of Zimbabwe’s famous Cecil the Lion, the US has banned the importation of lion trophies. The EU is mulling tightening importations and Africa’s voice is divided.
Countries in central east and west Africa’s elephant populations have declined by 60% according to CITES.
SADC’s numbers have grown by 12% as a result of good wildlife management policies, but Zimbabwe believes its 83 000 elephants and 850 lions are unsustainable and causing chaos to the ecosystems.
Some SADC countries say there is no evidence to show bans protect wildlife citing the 40 year-old CITES ban on trade in rhino products.
This as SADC says member states are the best protectors and decision makers for their own wildlife.