Zimbabwe: Ivory Trade a Possibility - Mupfumira

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Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira is upbeat that Zimbabwe's proposal for the lifting on the ban of ivory trade will pass during this year's Conference of the Parties (Cop) 18 slated for Geneva, Switzerland, in August.

Speaking to businessdigest this week, Mupfumira expressed optimism ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) conference amid indications that the proposal by Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia seeking a lift on the ban on raw ivory trade will be given prominence during the conference.

"We continue to lobby and engage various stakeholders including the secretariat of Cites and ourselves as Kaza. We think we are slowly being heard, even some of the presenters yesterday (during the summit) shows that they understand our story. So we just have to lobby more and up our advocacy game so that people understand what we are talking about," Mupfumira said.

Zimbabwe along with three other southern African countries have been calling on Cites to lift the "unfair" ban on ivory trade nine years after a once off sale to China in 2008.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa during last month's United Nations/African Union Wildlife Economic Summit said that the country was currently sitting on US$600 million ivory stockpiles which the country cannot trade due to the blanket ban on trade by Cites.

Although Zimbabwe's elephants are in Appendix 2 where regulated trade is allowed, Cites has maintained a tough stance on trade. The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife (ZimParks) argues ivory trade would assist conservation.

This comes amid reports that Zimbabwe was contemplating a Cites pullout over "unfair" regulation of ivory trade.

Mupfumira however says: "We are not yet there, we are just engaging and we want to be allowed to exercise our marketing decisions. Of course we are signatories to various conventions including Cites so we understand that we don't want an extreme decision yet," said Mupfumira.

Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia proposals to Cites comes hot on the heels of a counter proposal by a coalition led by Kenya, calling for the conservation body to up list the African elephant to Appendix 1.

Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants.

"That will be a nonstarter because they don't have the elephants. Certainly the move is a no no," Mupfumira said.

Cites' rules, which countries and states adhere to voluntarily, prohibit trade in endangered flora and fauna, with varying degrees of protection given to more than 35 000 species.

Last week, southern African leaders along that make up the Kavango, Zambezi conservation area upped the ante on to Cites to end the blanket ban.

The three southern African countries are home to 61% of the continent's elephants.

The three countries, including Angola and Zambia said communities were battling human, wildlife conflict amid reports of hundreds casualties owing to wildlife attacks.

In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife (Zimparks) said farmers living near conservation areas had lost more than 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of crops to straying elephants.

Human, wildlife conflict has escalated over the past decade as growing human population, encroaches on game parks, forests and other ecosystems in search of land.

The Zimbabwe government is developing a policy to limit conflict between humans and wildlife as it moves to ease friction over resources. It also wants to see the Cites ruling relaxed so it can sell more animals.

Between 2012 and 2018, Zimbabwe sold 98 elephants mainly sold to China.

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