Zimbabwe lobbies international community to support lifting of ivory trade ban

By Josephine Mugiyo & Bruce Chahwanda

WITH the country sitting on 130 000 tonnes of ivory, Zimbabwe is lobbying the international community, to support its quest for the ivory trade ban to be lifted at the forthcoming CITES meeting.

This Monday Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS) Director General Fulton Mangwanya made a passionate presentation to diplomats from several European Union countries, bemoaning the ivory trade ban, culling of the herd and trophy hunting.

This comes at a time when Zimbabwe has an elephant herd which exceeds the country’s carrying capacity of 45 000 and an ivory stock pile of 130 000 tonnes valued approximately at US$600 million.”After every CITES meeting we have to nurse some wounds as Zimbabwe.

There is a great market for ivory and we need to sell for management of the herd. Culling is opposed, hunting opposed, ivory sales illegal,” said Dr Mangwanya.

The ZIMPARKS boss says instead of being recognised for its efforts in wildlife conservation, Zimbabwe is being punished.The country is even willing to account for how the proceeds from the ivory trade will be utilised.

“We are saying we are open for all to see how we use the money.”

Britain’s defence attachée to Zimbabwe Group Captain Andrew Bastable says they are compelling arguments which will be dealt with by experts when the issue is tabled at CITES.

“There are compelling arguments from both sides and there will be experts to deal with these arguments,” said Bastable.

Switzerland ambassador to Zimbabwe His Excellency Niculin Jager said they appreciate Zimbabwe’s openness on the issue of conservation management.

“We appreciate your openness and willingness to discuss issues of bio diversity,” he said.CITES last agreed to a once-off sale of ivory in 2008.

Meanwhile Safari operators believe there is need for Zimbabwe to continuously engage the international community for the country to deal with the surging wildlife population.

With numbers being thrown around regarding the holding capacity and the existing elephant population, tour operators believe a consensus has to be reached with the global community to ensure Zimbabwe offloads some of the elephants.

“On culling, we have 100 000 elephants with a capacity of 50 000, Hwange national park has 50 000 while its capacity is only 15 000,” said Dr Emmanuel Fundira, Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe President.

“Elephants now leave the park going to where people are hence human wildlife conflict. So we are saying let’s cull these elephants as they damage the habitat. In Kaza we have close to 400 000 elephants while our capacity is only a third of that,” he said.

Wildlife expert, Mr George Seremwe says more awareness programmes must be adopted to ensure communities co-exist with wild animals.

“Awareness is critical for communities within wildlife ranges such that they live in harmony otherwise more deaths of people and animals will continue to be witnessed,” he said.

Zimbabwe failed to get the desired result at the last CITES meeting and hopes are high that the global community will have a change of mind, come CITES COP19 later this year.

“We continue engaging, we are preparing for CITES to be held in Panama City. We are also planning to send selected delegates to other African countries, there is a plan where Parks is organising an indaba in Victoria Falls where African Ministers will come suchlike that they carry a similar message to CITES.”

Zimbabwe is seeking a greenlight to trade its huge ivory stockpile to plough back resources towards conservation for posterity.