Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun
President Hage Geingob has expressed concern over the increasing costs and security implications of holding ivory stocks and reiterated Namibia’s favourable stance towards the resumption of legal international ivory trade.
Geingob, who is also the chairman of SADC, made these remarks at the Kasane Elephant Summit.
The presidents of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, as well as Angola’s environment minister, met at Kasane, Botswana, on Tuesday to forge a common policy toward elephant management, saying that conflict between elephants and rural farmers is escalating.
Ivory sales currently require approval from the international community through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Geingob said Namibia continued to exercise strict control over ivory stocks, but he stressed that stocks continue to accumulate, by an average of 4.5% per year, primarily because of natural deaths.
He said the proceeds from the legal ivory trade would be utilised to support elephant conservation and rural conservation programmes.
He said with regard to the trade in elephant specimens, Namibia has fully complied with CITES requirements and contributed to the development of a rigorous trade control system.
“As a result, Namibia successfully exported raw ivory between 1999 and 2008, proving that with adequate controls and strict enforcement measures, ivory can be traded legally.”
He further stressed that the Namibian elephant population was secure.
“The population recovery over the past several years attests to our management efforts. Changing times call for appropriate management strategies to be developed in order to maintain the historic coexistence between our people and elephants.”
Geingob said Namibia had taken note of the criticism of elephant population management in Botswana and affirmed its support of the new policies and programmes on elephant population management and sustainable use, which have been developed by the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) partner states.
He continued to say that conservancies manage approximately 19.8% of the total Namibian surface area.
“By joining large contiguous areas and thereby allowing wildlife to roam freely, environmental restoration has been achieved and healthy wildlife populations sustained.”
He said Namibia’s conservation model has enabled expansion of the elephant population from just over 7 500 in 1995 to 24 000 at present.
According to him the biggest potential threat to the Namibian elephant population is the loss of habitat due to cyclical periods of drought.
Another problem area is fragmentation of range and the rising incidence of human-elephant conflict.
“We are aware that these challenges are not unique to Namibia and exist within all member states. We therefore welcome the developed Elephant Management and Planning Framework, which will assist partner states to manage their elephants as one contiguous population through a harmonised approach.”
He said that Namibia supports the realization of a shared approach towards elephant conservation via the KAZA Agreement, thereby, remaining committed towards a common vision for the management of Southern Africa’s elephants.
Geingob said conservation generated much-needed economic returns for rural communities. By the end of 2017, community conservation contributed an estimated N$7 billion to the net national income, facilitating job growth within local communities.
“With this in mind, Namibia affirms the call for communities to be actively involved in the protection and conservation of environment and biodiversity. We further underscore that programmes to promote conservation of biodiversity must positively impact the standard of living of rural communities.”
Geingob further said that the tremendous potential presented by tourism sector remained largely untapped and brimming with possibilities for accelerated socio- economic growth and development in the sub-region.
“The conservation and sustainable management of our natural resources remain key markets in rekindling economic growth and job creation.”
He also said that the free movement of people must be facilitated, especially to enable Africans who are traveling within Africa.
He called for the easing of movement of people across African borders and affirmed Namibia’s commitment to implement the KAZA UNIVISA, which has been successfully piloted in Zambia and Zimbabwe since 2014.