Zimbabwe is looking for friendly allies in international trade in ivory

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A national park ranks amidst the stock of ivory elephant tusks in Harare, Zimbabwe on 16 May.

Photo: AFP / VNA / CVN

The country has invited representatives from fifteen countries to a conference in its largest reserve in Hwange (West), located on the border with Botswana and an example of success in the protection of elephants. Here, about 50,000 specimens share 14,600 km² of vegetation. The nature park is as big as half of Belgium, but the pachyderms that need large areas to feed are too many there.

This overpopulation is leading to more and more frequent incidents: 60 people have been killed by elephants in Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year against 72 over the whole of last year, according to the government. The elephants began to roam outside the reserves. In January, a woman and her baby were trampled to death in the southeast. The country has about 100,000 of these large land mammals, almost double the capacity of its parks, conservationists say.

Unlike other regions where poachers have exterminated the species, mainly for ivory, Zimbabwe is experiencing a population increase of 5% per year. Southern Africa is home to 70% of the continent’s elephants.

“Dangerous signal”

Some countries complain about the cost of securing huge stocks of ivory acquired through natural deaths or confiscations, arguing that their sale could fund the preservation or shipping of pachyderms to countries where they are in decline. International sales of ivory have been banned since 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Extraordinary sales were approved in 1999 and 2008.

It’s hard to find a happy medium“, says the Minister of Tourism and Environment, Mangaliso Ndhlovu. Some locals are wondering”why elephants prioritize their own lives “, he says in a press release. Last week, Zimbabwe requested support from European countries for the sale of its $ 600 million stock.

Three years ago, with Botswana and Namibia, the country plunged into a severe economic crisis had already demanded a right to act, but this request had been rejected by CITES in Geneva. For Frank Pope, from the NGO Save The Elephants in Nairobi, the trade automatically encourages poaching. “Experience has cruelly shown that any trade in ivory creates unsustainable pressure on the population of wild elephants. “he said.

The conference, which was to continue until Thursday 26 May, brings together countries in favor of legalization such as China and Japan, where ivory is very popular. The Seychelles and Madagascar, which do not have elephants in their territory, are also represented. Kenya and Tanzania, on the other hand, which oppose such a measure, were not invited.

About 50 organizations fighting the international trade in ivory have signed a declaration condemning any decision that goes against the protection of an endangered species in certain parts of the world.

The conference sends a dangerous signal to poachers and criminal organizations, suggesting that elephants are a commodity and that trade in ivory can be resumed, which would exacerbate the threat to the species. ” they warned.


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