Renewed calls for lifting of ban on elephant trade

By ZBC Reporter
THE mysterious death of more than 250 elephants in neighbouring Botswana has seen fresh calls for urgent measures to deal with the burden of ballooning elephant population within the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area.
A Zimbabwean laboratory is among the centres identified to investigate the mysterious death of more than 200 elephants in Seronga on the northern fringes of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Samples from the dead elephants have been sent to Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada, according to a statement issued by Gaborone.
As scientists work round the clock to establish the exact cause of the mysterious deaths, Safari Tour Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe (STOAZ) President, Dr Emmanuel Fundira says the excessive elephant population in Botswana and regional countries remains a major headache for wildlife authorities.
“What has happened in Botswana is extremely tragic and we can foresee the same problem extending into the region and it is a cause for concern. We all know that Botswana has reached the maximum number of elephants that the habitat can carry without causing destruction to the environment,” said Dr Fundira.
Speaking from his Botswana base, Ngamiland Council of NGOs Executive Director, Siyoka Simasiku said it is the right time to allow ivory trade.
“This is the right time for CITES to allow Botswana to sell its ivory stock. We need the money now more than ever because that money can actually assist the country to solve the mysterious death of elephants and also fund livelihoods of communities co-existing with wildlife,” said Simasiku.
While there is no clear cause of the death, some conservationists have ruled out poisoning as there are no other species that have died after drinking from the same waterholes.
Lack of reports of gunshots or spearing wounds has also led some to dismiss poaching as a possible cause.
SADC members countries who account for more than 60 percent of the African elephant population cannot sell ivory and live elephants due to the unjustified embargo adopted by the CITES.