By Daniel Chigundu
Zimbabwe is caught up in a dilemma on whether to stay or pull-out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on the back of a growing elephant herd and dwindling space which is also being taken up by an equally growing human population.
There are about 84 000 elephants in Zimbabwe, which is an unsustainably huge number for the parks to effectively manage but there is not much they can do owing to CITES restrictions.
Zimbabwe joined CITES in 1982 and this 184 member convention authorises the sale or utilisation certain species including elephants and our elephants were listed in Appendix 2 in 1992.
In Appendix 2 members states are allowed to sustainably utilise the elephants to raise funds for conservations of the elephant population and other animals though under strict control on CITES.
Now with the elephant herd growing on the back of the CITES ban, Zimbabwe is weighing the option of whether or not to pull out of the convention so that it can cash in on its stockpiles of ivory valued at about US$300million as well as put up some elephants for sale or for trophy hunting.
However, appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Roseline Mandisodza-Chikerema who is the chief ecologist with ZimParks said pulling out of CITES has some associated challenges that come with it.
“If we are going to pull out today we also need to agree with one of the buyers is it China or is it Japan so that when we go out together we trade and after trading then we go back.
“But if you look at it as it is Japan and China have links with the West if they are going to pull-out with us Zimbabwe and Southern Africa it is also going to impact on the other relations they have with other countries.
“And if you are talking about this CITES we do have other conventions that we have ratified as a country on climate change, we have the Ramsar Convention and all these things are tied together, the moment we try to pull-out of one it’s going to have an impact on the others,” she said.
Mandisodza-Chikerema added that there is an option where the country can specifically pull elephants out from CITES and leave other species.
“So yes we can talk of going into reserve for elephants specifically, if we go into reserve for elephants what it means is that as a country we are not going to discuss elephants in CITES but we discuss other matters so it’s something that we need to think about and see how we can go about it,” she said.
Zimbabwe said it submitted a proposal to be allowed to sell its stockpiles of ivory but countries in European Unions are against the idea.
Kenya which was celebrated a few years ago for burning its stockpiles of ivory is reportedly pushing that elephants be removed from Appendix 2 and be listed in Appendix 1.
In Appendix 1 members states are not allowed to trade or to sustainably utilise their elephants herd to raise funds or to prevent issues of human and wildlife conflict.