Zimbabwe says CITES ban on ivory trade fuelling illegal hunting, calls for open trade

Zimbabwe says CITES ban on ivory trade fuelling illegal hunting, calls for open trade

HARARE, May 4 (The Source) – Zimbabwe has called on conservation group Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to lift a ban on trade in elephant ivory, saying the restriction has spurred illegal hunting in the country.

Established in 1973, CITES is generally regarded as the most important legislation regulating trade in endangered or vulnerable species, with Zimbabwe ratifying the treaty in 1981.

CITES maintains three levels of control. Appendix I, the most stringent, includes species that are in immediate danger of extinction. CITES generally prohibits international trade of these species.

Appendix II lists species that are likely to become in danger of extinction without strict protection from international trade. Permits may be obtained for the trade of Appendix II species only if trade will not harm the survival prospects of the species in the wild.

Appendix III includes species identified by individual countries as being subject to conservation regulations within its borders.

In 1997, CITES transferred the African elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to CITES Appendix II with an “annotation” that did not allow regular international ivory trade for commercial purposes.

However, after giving in to pressure from Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, CITES agreed to allow a “one-time, experimental” export of 49 metric tons of government-stockpiled ivory to Japan in 1999.

In 2008, CITES increased the amount of government-stockpiled ivory that could be exported to 108 metric tons, and included Zimbabwe among the African countries that could take part in the export destined for Japan and China. The group agreed not to approve additional ivory trade for nine-years.

Zimbabwe is this year proposing to amend the present Appendix II listing of its population of African Elephant by removing the annotation in order to achieve an unqualified Appendix II listing.

In the proposal, Zimbabwe adds that the country has lost 439 tonnes of ivory worth $226 million to illegal hunting as a direct result of the ban.

“Effective and sustainable conservation of Zimbabwe’s elephants is wholly dependent on establishing regular open market sales of elephant ivory to fund management and enforcement actions,” reads part of the proposal to be discussed at the CITIES Conference of the Parties in Jonhannesburg, South Africa in September.

“The ban and the absence of any regular trade has removed the incentives for local communities to conserve elephants. Many parks are now surrounded by hostile rural people who are trying to recover their wasted investment in elephants. An open trade might reverse the situation and address the corruption that the ban has spawned”.

At 84 000, Zimbabwe’s elephant population is twice that of its carrying capacity.