By Mpho Tebele, The Southern Times
GABORONE: Botswana last week took SADC’s case to Kenya in a last-ditch effort to garner support for countries in the region which are calling for the lifting of a ban on trade in ivory.
Minister Responsible for Wildlife, Kitso Mokaila, was part of a Botswana delegation to Kenya led by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, where they hoped to bring Kenya on board to take a united stand with Southern African nations on the elusive ivory talks.
The talks between the two African nations came at a time Kenya has proposed the uplifting of the African elephant to Appendix I, which prohibits trade in wildlife at the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) meeting scheduled for Switzerland in August.
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.
Kenya backs a CITES ban on global ivory trade while Botswana and other SADC member such as Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are calling for limited trade on elephant tusks.
“Kenya and other nations have made a proposal to CITES that Botswana elephants and those of neighbouring states, namely Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, be uplifted from Appendix II to Appendix 1, a proposition that Botswana has objected to forthwith, more so given that this was formulated without our input,” Mokaila said.
Mokaila said Botswana’s position, which is shared by other SADC member states, is that communities should be allowed to get involved in the sustainable management of elephants.
Botswana has an elephant population of more than 100 000, which is way above the country’s carrying capacity.
The minister said Botswana will continue to engage Kenya, which he described as one the key strategic partners as it continues to attract a wide range of tourists.
“There is a lot that Botswana can learn from Kenya as far as the tourism sector is concerned,” the minister said.
Reports indicate that a few years ago, Kenya took a decision to burn ivory stockpiles as a way of discouraging elephant poaching.
On the other hand, Botswana and many countries in the region believe that they have to continue putting pressure on CITES to allow for the sale of stockpiles as well as build museums to raise funds to improve the lives of people living in conservation areas.
The Southern African region especially, countries that are members of Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Park (KAZA) countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe’s – are putting up a spirited fight to have countries in the continent support their position that elephants should remain on Appendix II.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was recently quoted as saying that “This (elephants remaining on Appendix II) also becomes the position of SADC when we go for the CITES COP 18. We feel we must continue to remain on Appendix II so that we can trade in wildlife – elephants and rhino products.”
He reportedly added, “We feel we must remain on Appendix II. It is only logical so we can use our wildlife in a sustainable manner. It’s only logical for us to break the nine-year moratorium by giving us leeway to sell excess animals to those whose wildlife is extinct.”
In fact, SADC member states had hoped African countries would be speak with one voice at the scheduled meeting in Switzerland. But recently Kenya’s cabinet secretary informed Parliament that his country wanted elephants put on Appendix I which would lead to a total ban in ivory trade in the entire world.