Zimbabwe opens conference to lift ban on ivory

Zimbabwe has opened an international conference to try to get support from the international community for its campaign to get permission to sell its stockpile of seized ivory.

If the South African country is not allowed to sell its 130 tonnes of ivory, the value of which is estimated at $ 600 millionwarns authorities he could leave Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The three-day conference began Monday at hwange national park, the country’s largest wildlife park, located in southwestern Zimbabwe. Representatives from 16 African countries, as well as large ivory consumers, Japan and China, are to attend the meeting, officials said.

Last week, envoys from some EU countries, Britain, the United States and Canada, were guided through heavily guarded coffins in Harare filled with elephant tusks to gain support from the international community for the legal sale of ivory.

Zimbabwe’s efforts to sell the ivory are controversial, and many nature conservation groups oppose it, saying that any sale of ivory encourages poaching of patchyderms.

The conference “sends a dangerous signal to poachers and criminal syndicates that elephants are merely commodities and that trade in ivory can be resumed, increasing the threat to the species“, said a coalition of 50 conservation and animal rights organizations from around the world in a joint statement released on Monday.

South African countries were twice allowed to sell their ivory stocks to Japan and China, in 1997 and 2008, and this limited sale led to a “sharp escalationpoaching on the mainland, the letter states.

Illegal trade in ivory

Legalization of the ivory trade, including allowing another sale “unique”, could have equally catastrophic consequences, ”the groups add.

Zimbabwe claims that its elephant population is growing rapidly, by 5-8% per year, a rate that it considers unsustainable. Zimbabwe says it desperately needs funds from the sale of ivory to control its elephant population, which has reached a size “dangerous“.

According to national park officials 100,000 Zimbabwe elephants represent twice the load capacity of the latter. These overcrowded elephants destroy trees and shrubs that are essential to them and other wildlife.

Neighboring Botswana has the largest elephant population in the world with over 130,000 individuals. Together Zimbabwe and Botswana accounts for almost 50% of the world’s elephants. Both countries say they are struggling to cope with this population explosion.

The opposition comes from Kenya and other members of African Elephant Coalition, whose 32 members are mostly from East and West African countries with fewer elephants. They argue that reopening the legal international trade in ivory, even for a single auction, would lead to increased poaching.

CITES banned international trade in ivory in 1989 to curb poaching. In addition to banning the sale of ivory, in 2019 CITES also imposed restrictions on the sale of wild elephants in Zimbabwe and Botswana, a move that cheered some conservationists but horrific officials struggling to manage their overcrowded parks.

that illegal trade in ivory flourishes: international syndicates fund poachers to kill elephants and then their tusks to ivory. The ivory is then smuggled abroad, where there is a demand for ivory for jewelry and trinkets.

According to’International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), increased poaching and habitat loss have exacerbated the threat to African elephant populations.

Zimbabwe and Botswana say they are ill-equipped fight against poachers without money from the sale of ivory, especially as tourism revenues have fallen due to COVID-19 travel restrictions since 2020.

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