SADC countries gang up against CITES over ivory trade

Jan 22, 2019 | News

By Mpho Tebele – Southern Times – Jan 22, 2019

In a dramatic turn of events, Botswana has joined forces with
   Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to compel the Convention on
   International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
   (CITES) to open up ivory markets for the four southern African nations
   ahead of the organisation’s forthcoming meeting taking place in May in
   Sri Lanka.

   In 2016, during the CITES meeting held in South Africa, Botswana was
   initially party to the proposal to open up ivory trade only for it to
   climb down and support a total ban on ivory. But according to the latest
   proposal to CITES, a copy of which has been seen by The Southern Times,
   Botswana has thrown its weight behind a proposal to weaken restrictions
   on ivory trade. 

   In their latest proposal, the four Southern African nations are calling
   for a number of amendments to certain controls by CITES.

   They want trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes and
   trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations for
   Botswana and Zimbabwe and for conservation programmes for Namibia and
   South Africa.

   They also propose that there should be trade in hides, trade in hair and
   trade in goods for commercial or non-commercial purposes for Botswana,
   Namibia and South Africa and for non-commercial purposes for Zimbabwe.

   They are also calling for trade in individually marked and certified
   ivory incorporated in finished jewellery for non- commercial purposes
   for Namibia and ivory carvings for non-commercial purposes for Zimbabwe.

   They also want trade in registered raw ivory (for Botswana, Namibia,
   South Africa and Zimbabwe, whole tusks and pieces) subject to the
   following: only registered government-owned stocks, originating in the
   State (excluding seized ivory and ivory of unknown origin).

   The quartet also want to deal only with trading partners that have been
   verified by the Secretariat, in consultation with the Standing
   Committee, to have sufficient national legislation and domestic trade
   controls to ensure that the imported ivory will not be re-exported and
   will be managed concerning domestic manufacturing and trade.

   The trade in some of the goods should not be done before the Secretariat
   has verified the prospective importing countries and the registered
   government-owned stocks.

   “On a proposal from the Secretariat, the Standing Committee can decide
   to cause this trade to cease partially or completely in the event of
   non-compliance by exporting or importing countries, or in the case of
   proven detrimental impacts of the trade on other elephant populations,”
   reads the proposal in part.

   According to the document, “This proposal seeks to amend the Annotation
   to the listing of the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South
   Africa and Zimbabwe in Appendix II as elements of this Annotation are no
   longer relevant or not appropriate.”

   CITEs explained that Appendix II includes species not necessarily
   threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in
   order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

   In justifying why they are calling for the weakening of the restrictions
   on ivory trade, the four countries stated that Southern Africa has the
   largest population of the African elephant in the world.

   Despite the increasing threats faced by elephants, chief among them
   being habitat loss and poaching, the elephant populations of Southern
   Africa in general and the four countries named in this proposal
   specifically are secure and expanding.

   “In southern Africa, four countries: Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, and
   Zimbabwe have relatively large elephant populations and show either
   increasing trends or mild and non-significant declines recently,” reads
   the document in part.

   It states that the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South
   Africa and Zimbabwe are an anomaly in CITES. The document says these
   populations comprise around 256,000 elephants or 61.6% of all remaining
   elephants in Africa at the time that their continental status was
   reviewed most recently.

   “The populations of all four countries show increasing, stable and
   non-significant declines. Further, a quarter of a million elephants are
   being managed in the world’s largest transfrontier conservation area,
   the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) by five
   countries (Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe) to which the
   elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe contribute more
   than 80%,” states the document.

    It adds that “Movement corridors between the various national parks,
   conservancies, game reserves, state forests and hunting areas in the
   TFCA are being established or rehabilitated, strong cross border
   cooperation exists on law enforcement and anti-poaching and a long-term
   elephant conservation strategy for the TFCA is under development. The
   costs of these processes are high and beyond the reach of the
   participating governments.”

    It further noted that “Very little in CITES recognizes or supports any
   of this enormous achievement (conservation programmes) or serves to
   assist countries with large elephant populations to continue protecting
   them in the face of human population increases, infrastructure
   development and other changes in land use that erode wildlife habitat.”

   Taking a broadside at the international organisation, the document
   states that “CITES has acted as an inhibitor and not an enabler of
   progress. The Conference of the Parties has repeatedly discounted the
   importance of the Southern African elephant population and its
   conservation needs against other regions in Africa.”

   The document says that national parks in the four countries cannot
   absorb any additional elephants or in some cases even maintain the high
   levels of elephant populations that they already hold.

   It is essential, the documents say, that free movement of elephants in
   and out of protected areas and wildlife habitat on neighbouring land and
   in neighbouring countries are enabled. For that to happen, the document
   notes, the cooperation and goodwill of the people occupying that land
   are essential.

   “Rural people can co-exist with elephants; there is ample demonstration
   of that in Southern Africa, under the right conditions of benefitting
   from elephants and exercising their rights in making decisions over
   elephants and elephant habitat. Rural people have rights, rights that
   are far more fundamental and internationally recognized than is applied
   in decision-making in CITES,” reads the document. It also observed that
   such rights cannot just be ignored or discounted in favour of extraneous

   The document called on the Conference of the Parties (members of CITES)
   to recognize that it has to operate within the overall international
   governance framework, which includes due recognition of the right of
   local people to development and the right to make decisions over the
   resources that people depend on.

   “The Conference of the Parties is accordingly requested to approve this
   proposal and thus allow the proponents, who are the Parties that have
   demonstrably been amongst the most successful in conserving elephants,
   to further strengthen their conservation programmes through regulated
   trade in elephant products;” it also stated.

   The document concluded thus “It is time to remove the anomaly of having
   256,000 elephant on Appendix II being treated as if they are on Appendix
   I, against the wishes of the people who own them and who have the most
   to lose or gain from them.”

   Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in
   specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

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