Zimbabwe in catch-22 over CITES membership

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By Lulu Brenda Harris for CITE

Zimbabwe is caught in a no-win situation over its CITES membership where it is struggling to take full advantage of its large elephant population, but is unable to get out of the deal as it will be restricted from trade.

CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – is an international agreement between governments whose purpose is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not does not threaten their survival.

With a population of 100,000 elephants, Zimbabwe has the second largest elephant population in the world after Botswana, but the southern African country cannot sell its stock due to an ivory trade ban .

This has led to some calls for Zimbabwe to withdraw from CITES, but it is not an easy task.

“The reason we are leaving is mainly that CITES prevents us from trading and the way we are restricted in trading is that they will control the market. You are not able to sell on this market, but they will also put restrictions on your ability to sell,” said the Minister of Environment, Climate.

Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu while answering questions in the Senate recently.

“Zimbabwe coming out will just stand out. Our main markets are China and Japan, they will remain in CITES and cannot buy as they are CITES bound. So when you analyze the advantages of being there and being outside, it is much better to go there, to influence decisions so that the market is open for countries that have demonstrated that they have so well preserved their fauna, are able to maintain it and have been able to contain poaching. This is how we have so far been able to maintain our CITES membership.

This was in response to Senator Morgan Komichi who asked why Zimbabwe is “not leaving CITES” since it was the desire and wish of Zimbabweans to benefit from its wildlife.

The environment minister acknowledged it would help “a lot” if Zimbabwe was allowed to trade in wildlife, but the position was “very difficult under the provisions of CITES”.

“All CITES member states are bound by the provisions of CITES,” Ndlovu said, pointing out that three years ago Zimbabwe first informed CITES that the country had not received the attention it deserved.

“This also applied to the entire southern African region which holds over 85% of the world’s elephant population.”

Ndlovu noted that exiting CITES was an option, but one that Zimbabwe should consider thoroughly.

“Potential buyers of our products are members of CITES. They will not be able to buy any if they are still in CITES. If getting out of CITES was a solution to our problems, we would have left the solution within CITES,” the Minister said.

He added that Southern Africa should step up its efforts to influence CITES so that it takes due account of the science and experiences of local communities who encounter wildlife on a daily basis.

This consideration, he said, was to allow these countries to trade their stocks on an ad hoc basis and to be flexible with respect to trade in wildlife resources.

The environment minister said that when Zimbabwe travels to the CITES conference to be held in November in Panama, he will advocate strongly for his position to be taken into account.

“Because the situation keeps getting worse from CITES to CITES and we know that sometimes some governments, because of the funding of some so-called animal rights groups, disregard reason and science We are in the process of engaging them so that when we go there we speak with one voice,” Ndlovu said.

When Senator Dr Tichinani Mavetera asked if CITES was useful for the country, the Minister said that Zimbabwe and the convention had benefited from sharing best practices in conservation of different natural resources and from international trade.

“Certainly with regard to, especially our elephants, we seem to be struggling to get the full benefits,” Ndlovu admitted.

“However, we believe that as a country and as a region we are in a position to help conserve these globally important animal species, which is why we have always stressed that we want science to lead the decision-making and not necessarily politics, because it is clearly politics that is at stake.

The minister said the CITES provisions had clear benefits as Zimbabwe had been able to curb the poaching of many animal species and save a number of endangered bird species.

“There are clear benefits to this and we believe the best way forward at this time is to try to influence CITES to make sound science-based decisions that also give due consideration to the communities that support the disease. weight of life next to wildlife,” Ndlovu summed up. .

This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism Program, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in Africa and bring more African voices into the international conservation debate.

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