Windhoek — President Hage Geingob has expressed concern over the cost and security implications of holding large ivory stocks and has reiterated the country's stance towards legal international trade of ivory, from which proceeds - N$125 million in Namibia's case - would be utilised to support elephant conservation and rural conservation programmes.
Geingob made the remarks yesterday when he joined other Heads of State of countries that make up the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza-TFCA) in Kasane, Botswana for an elephant summit.
The summit aimed at creating a common understanding and shared vision towards the sustainable management of Kaza-TFCA member states' endangered elephants.
Namibia has over the years been vocal in its stance to dispose of its stockpiles of rhino and elephant products on international legal markets.
Although Geingob pledged Namibia continue to exercise strict control over ivory stocks, he said stocks continue to accumulate, by an average of 4.5 percent per annum, primarily through natural mortalities.
Late last year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism disclosed in an exclusive interview with New Era that the current size of Namibia's ivory stockpile is 69 391.71kg (69.4 tonnes) valued at N$125.48 million.
It was also revealed that out of the 69.4 tonnes, a total quantity of 29 964.64 kg (29.9 tonnes) represented legal ivory and 39 427.07 kg (39.4 tonnes) illegal ivory.
The 29 964.64 kg of the legal ivory stockpile is valued at N$54.2 million while the 39 427.07 kg illegal ivory stockpile is worth N$71.3 million.
The ministry could not provide figures on rhino horns due to security reasons.
The ministry said the money generated through the sale of the stockpile will be reinvested in conservation through the Game Product Trust Fund.
Namibia last auctioned off its ivory stockpile in 2008 along with its neighbouring states.
Over U$15 million (approximately N$210 million) for African elephant conservation and local communities have been raised through the sale of 102 tonnes of stockpiled ivory, according to Cites - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Through four auctions, conducted under the strict supervision of the Cites Secretariat, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe sold the 102 tonnes of ivory to Chinese and Japanese accredited traders for a total amount of U$15 400 000.
Concerning the trade in elephant specimens, President Geingob stated Namibia has fully complied with requirements from Cites and contributed to the development of a rigorous trade control system.
As a result, he confirmed Namibia successfully exported raw ivory between 1999 and 2008, proving that with adequate controls and strict enforcement measures, ivory can be traded legally.
According to him, Namibia has taken note of the ongoing debate and criticism on elephant population management and status for the Republic of Botswana and affirms the country's support to the new policies and programmes on elephant population management and sustainable use, which have been developed by them, as Kaza partner states.
He stated that the Namibian elephant population is secure.
"The population recovery over the past several years attests to our management efforts. Changing times call for appropriate management strategies to be developed in order to maintain the historic coexistence between our people and elephants. To that end, Namibia supports the realization of a shared approach towards elephant conservation via the Kaza agreement, thereby, remaining committed towards a common vision for the management of Southern Africa's elephants," he pledged.
During the end of 2017, community conservation contributed an estimated N$7 billion to net national income, facilitating job growth within local communities.
Geingob said conservation generates much required economic returns for rural communities.
Therefore, he noted Namibia affirms the call for communities to be actively involved in the protection and conservation of environment and biodiversity.
He said Namibia further underscore that programmes to promote conservation of biodiversity must positively impacts the standard of living of rural communities.