President Mnanagwa’s announcement that Zimbabwe plans to pullout of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) has triggered excitement in Geneva, Switzerland at the CITES CoP18.The pro-sustainable use delegates from different parts of the world who view CITES as having continued to punish SADC countries by denying them their sovereign rights to trade in ivory and rhino horn said that Zimbabwe should do what is right for its elephants and its people – pullout and trade in ivory.

“That’s the way to go (reservations and pullout), said Namibia’s Minister of Environmentand Tourism, Pohamba ‘. “I think many other SADC countries, especially those who have burdens of living with wildlife. In fact we are going to sit and take stock. We are not happy with CITES CoP18 and also not happy with CoP17. We can pullout, we have other partners who can help us to support our conservation by trading with us. We don’t want donations. We are being punished and not punished at every CITES.”

He said that the Western animal rights group had an agenda to frustrate and restrict the SADC countries’ wildlife products trading agenda.

“Southern Africa will take a position as from now, now,” said Minister.

The Herald, Zimbabwe’s oldest and biggest daily newspaper reported today, “Speaking at ground-breaking ceremony for the upgrading of a 6.5 kilometre stretch along Harare-Chirundu Highway, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe would express reservations before pullout of the body (UN CITES), if need be.”

According to CITES articles XV, XVI and XXIII, a reservationover a particular species means that Zimbabwe in this context or SADC countries are no longer members of CITES with respect to a particular species (in this case the elephant) and no longer restricted from trading in ivory with other countries that might also pullout of CITES or the ones that are not the members of the Convention.On the other hand pullout (denounciation), according to article XXV is a total exit from the Convention but you can still trade with countries that are not members of CITES. It must be lodged within 90 days after CoP18 in this instance. Then it takes effect after 12 months after the concerned government has submitted the pullout notification to CITES.

However, the reservation ad pullout processes have to be done over a 90-day period and they should lodge their pullout notice to CITES. Therefore, the next three months shall be crucial for the future of Zimbabwe’s elephants and people who continue to be compromised with extinction and limited socioeconomic benefits, respectively as long as CITES ivory ban continues to be enforced. Zimbabwe has never gone on reservations in 1989, but didn’t because the ivory buying countries that had also planned to pullout so that they could buy from Zimbabwe didn’t pullout.

“I can understand the frustration of Southern African countries and Zimbabwe, whereby they have made immense efforts to save their elephants and other species and yet more and more the CITES Convention and this CoP18 is not rewarding the SADC countries’ conservation efforts,” said Italian wildlife management and sustainable use expert, Marco Pani. “Leaving CITES, it’s in the text of the Convention – if the Western countries continue to unfairly deny SADC countries their sovereign rights to benefit from ivory and rhino, it’s in the text of CITES that they can leave.”

Mr Pani said that CITES has been hijacked by animal rights groups and I would not be surprised if other parties leave CITES because they continue to be deny opportunity to trade in their resources.

“Trade is what is making the world go round, our cell phones, clothes are being sold and providing benefits to the people,” he said. “Why should wildlife not bring benefits to the people, especially the poor rural communities? The continued prevention of people from benefiting from wildlife is no longer a wildlife issue, it’s much more a human rights issue.”

He said that the happiest people when trade continues to be banned are poachers. The poachers and “smugglers and Western animal rights groups (through fundraising) are the ones who benefit and not the owners of wildlife when the ban continues.”

A consultant of the Chinese Government was seen excitedly asking people about President Mnangagwa’s announcement but China recently shut down its ivory markets. However, Zimbabwe and SADC countries have many markets including one of the biggest ivory markets Japan to which they could sell all their ivory.

Speaking in his personal capacity, former Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority employee and also board member, Mr George Pangeti said that he was excited to note that Zimbabwe was planning to exercise its sovereign rights to benefit from the sales of its US$600 million valued ivory stockpiles to benefit wildlife conservation and the people. Mr Pangeti said that he supported anything that has to do with sustainable use.

“The reaction of SADC countries to CITES’ continued trade ban on ivory is that of disappointment and they will certainly be consulting on another on the way forward,” said Mr Pangeti. “President Mnangagwa’s statement is attracting attention and both ministers of Botswana and Namibia are all frustrated with the ivory trade ban. This points to a SADC-wide consultative process in the next 90 days.”

The Zimbabwe CITES reservations and pullout plan comes at a time when SADC countries are beginning to think owning elephants and rhinosis a ‘curse’ becauseCITES continuesto baninternational trade in their stockpiledivory and rhino horn.

“We fought for political independence and we now have it,” said Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Director of Wildlife, Dr Maurus Msuha. “The next fight for us is now the fight for the right to use our resources for the development of our own people. This needs political pressure from our governments who should say that we don’t need this anymore (being denied our sovereign rights to trade in our wildlife products).”

Dr Msuha said that the SADC media “needs to be here” (CoP18) to cover these controversial decisions and explain to our people how they will affect us positively or negatively in the future.

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda declared that the CITES Secretariat needed to note for the record that it believed the rejection of SADC countries’ ivory trade bid was inconsistent, and might be construed as “racist.”

Observers of the ongoing SADC countries ivory trade frustrations said sadly, the Western animal rights groups and their governments don’t care that the anti-trade decisions continue to create a wildlife-poachingcrisis in SADC. This in turn is driving thousands of elephants and rhinos annually toward extinction.

SADC conservationists have continued to argue that the ban on ivory trade doesn’t stop poaching; it ironically fuels it. It has not and will never save a single rhino and elephant. The ban has been in force for the past 44 years but poaching and illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn continue daily. The media is awash with stories of poaching and illegal trade.

Observers at CITES CoP18 noted that such massive wildlife destruction could be shown in real time as the Amazon fires are being shown live on television, then the G7 leaders that met in Southern France this week might have seen how the West is guilty of destroying wildlife by sponsoring trade bans that not only harm wildlife but also continue to trap Africans in untold poverty.

“CITES is a strange fish,” said the Managing Director of the U.S. based Ivory Education Institute, Godfrey Harris. “The treaty is a U.S. invention created by the animal welfare groups and the US, not the UN, is its depository. Every three years it brings the signatories to the treaty together, but paid the expenses of 94 of the 140 or so delegations registered for the Geneva meeting. Each delegate gets about $8000 each to come and attend. Notably, getting to and from the 6th-most-expensive-city-in-the-world Geneva is not cheap.

There appears to be enough padding in the stipend to put these delegations in the ‘pockets’ of the US and the EU which meet the CITES budget, through government funds and private contributions. The numbers in attendance give the appearance of its worldwide importance, but in fact this is an organization controlled by a few countries and the major non-governmental organizations.

About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.


The Express News

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