BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Zimbabwe is struggling to convince African countries to support its lobby for the lifting of a global ban on ivory trade with only a few endorsing the campaign.
The Hwange National Park, the country’s largest game reserve hosted the African Elephants Conference between May 23 to 26, where Zimbabwe hoped to influence a common position for the continent on ivory trade ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference of the parties (Cop19) to be held in Panama later this year.
Only five of the 19 countries invited to the Hwange conference endorsed the declaration calling for the resumption of ivory trade while South Africa, a potentially influential ally for Zimbabwe, abstained.
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia endorsed the declaration where the countries agreed to push CITES to give them the greenlight to sell their ivory stockpiles.
“We commit to working collectively to…make a clarion call for CITES not to interfere with domestic trade, the sovereignty of states and their rights to sustainable use of wildlife,” reads part of the conference’s resolutions.
“(To) advocate for decisions to be made based on elephants’ numbers in each country or region to curb the prevailing practice where decisions are made by non-affected nations; lobby through diplomatic channels to ensure that the current gaps in communication on topic wildlife issues are closed”
The five countries said they would convince the world to “rreflect and introspect on the founding ideas of CITES to shared commitment to dialogue, equity, inclusiveness and transparency.”
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“We urge all African states to join to forge a “new and better deal for elephant conservation, tourism and rural communities in key African Range States “by endorsing and committing to the declaration,” the resolutions read.
First lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who was the guest of honour at the conference, expressed frustration over lack of support from African countries.
“I strongly encourage Africa to speak with one voice for the good of its people,” Mnangagwa said.
“We are masters of our own destiny.
“As Africans, we must fully manage and benefit from our God given natural resources without undue interference.”
Zimbabwe says it wants to dispose of its ivory stockpiles worth US$600 million to fund conservation efforts and fight human-wildlife conflict, which is being worsened by the overpopulation of elephants.
The country’s population of 100 000 elephants is the second highest in Africa after Botswana.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director-general Fulton Mangwanya told VicFallsLive that there were Asian countries that were ready to buy the ivory stockpiles if CITES lifts the ban, but countries such as Japan say they have excess stocks.
Japan alongside the European Union and Sweden attended the Hwange conference, but made it clear that their only interest was in conservation efforts and not the lifting of the CITES ban. – VicFallsLive