By Abdi Rizack – The Star
• The CITES parties did, however, give new protection to the giraffe by voting to end the unregulated international trade in the animal’s parts.
•There are fewer giraffes alive than elephants and their population has plunged by 40% since 1985 to just 97,500.
The ongoing Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on Thursday upheld the ban on trade ivory despite huge pressure from four Southern Africa countries.
Botswana made a last-minute proposal for the sale of tonnes of stockpiled ivory at the 183rd CITES summit.
“Africa is not one country, and our wildlife approaches will never be the same. We are being held hostage by the global ban on ivory sales,” said a delegate from the country.
However, Kenya opposed this position saying two experiments on the same had failed and only lead to an increase in poaching.
Subsequently, the new sale proposal was soundly defeated by 101 countries voting against it compared to 23 who supported the proposal.
Gabon made a last minute counter-proposal aimed at ending all international trade in elephants saying if parties don’t act now it is quite possible the future generation will have no opportunity to see elephants.
Kenya and Gabon’s position angered the Southern Africa nations who termed the move ‘ridiculous.’
While their proposal was eventually defeated 67 to 51, leaving a stalemate, South Africa declared that the decision was “affronted.”
The CITES parties did, however, give new protection to the giraffe by voting to end the unregulated international trade in the animal’s parts.
There are fewer giraffes alive than elephants and their population has plunged by 40 per cent since 1985 to just 97,500.
Eight southern African nations strongly opposed the new regulation of trade, arguing that giraffe numbers were increasing in their countries precisely because trophy hunting and selling parts provided incentives and funds for conservation.
But the proposal was passed when countries voted 106 to 21 to list the giraffe as an endangered species.
According to experts, very slow reproduction rates make giraffes particularly vulnerable.
Females reach sexual maturity after six years and then produce a calf every two years which stunts their population growth.
Giraffe expert Dr. Fred Bercovitch, described the giraffe population as a silent extinction adding that about half of calves are killed by lions before the age of one.
Giraffes are basically at zero population growth even in natural situations.
Bercovitch also noted that hunting, along with the destruction of habitat, civil wars, and climate change were the main reasons for falling giraffe numbers.
The largest population, particularly the Masai giraffe, has halved to 35,000 animals in the last 30 years compared to the other population in South Africa which is significantly on the rise.
The new measures do not outlaw international trade but will require strict permits and provide vital data on the global extent of the trade.
African countries that should be responsible for the protection of elephants and giraffes seem to disagree while the European nations where most of the illicit trade on wildlife happens to support the protection of the species.
South Africa has strongly proposed that the ban be lifted to continue to encourage trophy hunting.
Zimbabwe said local communities were suffering by not earning income from elephants adding that they are the ones walking bare-footed, with no schools or hospitals.
It seems to suggest that the Southernmost African nations are in disagreement with the rest of the African states in outlawing the ban on wildlife trade.
However, CITES parties took none of their considerations and instead penned their votes for the ban on the illicit trade and protection of the giraffe species.
However, the debate also exposed the same north-south divide in the continent by parties present in the ongoing wildlife summit.