By Arlana Shikongo, The Namibian
Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta says Namibia’s tolerance towards the ongoing ban on ivory trade is being severely tested.
Shifeta said this during a keynote address at the opening of the national elephant conservation and management plan consultative workshop in Windhoek on Thursday.
Speaking on the healthy and growing elephant demography in the country, Shifeta said Namibia’s elephant conservation efforts are being hindered by decisions taken by the multilateral wildlife treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
He was making reference to a decision taken at a Cites wildlife trade summit last year to reject proposals by countries who wanted an exemption from the global ivory trade ban.
“The most important incentive, namely the value that can be generated from trade in ivory is currently severely compromised by the actions of animal rights groups who have influenced decisions at the Cites [conference] that undermine Namibia’s conservation programmes.
“For how long this is going to be the case is unclear, but our tolerance is being severely tested,” he said.
At the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to Cites held last year, five southern African countries, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia proposed that the ban on ivory trade be lifted.
These countries constitute the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza-TFCA) which holds two-thirds of the continent’s approximately 400 000 African elephants.
The trade ban was imposed in 1989 in an attempt to stem the decline in the African elephant population purportedly due to increased levels of poaching.
Shifeta said elephants are Namibia’s highly valued natural resource which can be utilised to the benefit of communities.
“Elephants are part of the natural resources of Namibia over which we have full sovereignty and there is a limit to how much external interference we will accept in the use of this resource.
“We favour a collective approach on the regulation of international trade but ultimately, we have to act in the interest of conservation and the rural people that are so important in determining the fate of elephants in the long term,” he said.
Namibia has been desperate to have the ban on ivory trade lifted so that the country can sell and benefit from its growing ivory stockpile.
“Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which if traded internationally could support our elephant conservation and management for decades to come,” he asserted.
Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe also presented a proposal to allow them to sell their ivory stockpiles globally during the wildlife trade summit.
The environment ministry has previously expressed concern about the safety implications of keeping ivory stockpiles, as well as the cost thereof.