HARARE, July 14 (The Source) – Zimbabwe stands to lose millions in revenue generated from wildlife trade, putting its sustainable conservation practises under threat if the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting bars the country from conducting elephant and lion trophy hunting, officials said on Thursday.
CITES, an international treaty focusing on protection of flora and fauna, is holding its Conference of Parties (COP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 24 to October 5.
Top on its agenda is a proposal by some developed and African countries to have Zimbabwe’s elephant and lion populations moved from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1, which provides for stricter measures in commercial trade in the species.
But Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the move was tantamount to interference with the country’s sovereign right on use of its wildlife resources, which it has successfully managed since independence.
“Zimbabwe is worried by the tendency of developed countries to treat our elephants as the global commons,” he said launching the country’s roadmap to the CITES COP17.
“Zimbabwe’s wildlife is part of our national, natural heritage and we know how to manage and use it for sustainable national and community development.”
The country has about 13 percent of its total surface area, amounting to 390,757 square meters gazetted as wildlife protected areas.
It was unusual, Mnangagwa said, that “countries which do not have an inch of land” set aside for wildlife and had decimated their animal populations were trying to lecture Zimbabwe on how to manage its game.
“We are being punished for good wildlife management,” he said.
Environment, Water ad Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri said the country had over the years used trophy hunting to help eradicate poverty in communities that are engaged in wildlife management.
Countries that only have animals in zoos, were not going to tell the country what to do, she said.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe acting director general, Wilson Mutinhima said in the period 2013/14, Zimbabwe had grossed $22 million through sport hunting alone.
The authority derives the bulk of its operational funding from hunting revenues.
“Over the years, Zimbabwe has gallantly, vigorously and successfully protected its resources,” he said.
“Our very philosophy of sustainable utilisation is under attack. The proposals negate all good conservation work that we are world renewed for.”
He said the country currently had a population of over 84,000 elephants, which is more than the country’s handling capacity.
The lion population is estimated at around 2,000.
Zimbabwe early this year hogged the lime light after it said it would sale live animals as a result of drought.
And in 2015, the country was also under the spotlight when its internationally famed lion, Cecil was killed by an American hunter leading to international airlines putting a moratorium on transporting hunting trophies.