HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured below, has banned trade in live elephants following a global outcry in the wake of the sale of 34 baby elephants to China late last year.
Mnangagwa also banned trade in other endangered wild animals such as the rhinoceros, lions and pangolins which are on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) red list.
The previous political regime of former president, Robert Mugabe, was notorious for brushing aside such outcries.
But Mnangagwa, who is hoping to charm the world by rolling back his predecessor’s policies, appears to have hearkened to counsel and has since committed government to conservation efforts.
In justifying its elephant trade, government has previously argued that Zimbabwe has an unsustainably high elephant population which, at 86 000, exceeds the ecological carrying capacity of 54 000 elephants.
Conservationists, however, argue that exporting the elephants — which prefer the temperate Savanna climate to that of the Far East which fluctuates between the hot and cold extremes —was not the solution.
Information at hand indicates that following the December brouhaha, Mnangagwa gave audience to representatives of two concerned international conservation organisations, Tikki Hywood Foundation and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), who had visited the country intending to raise their concerns with him.
Mnangagwa assured them of his commitment to conserving the country’s wildlife resources.
“This is a very significant moment in Zimbabwe’s history and we understand that we have a lot of work to do in ensuring the protection of our natural resources.
“Global support and greater understanding of the new Zimbabwe will go a long way towards communicating the change that we are committed to seeing here in our country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement to the two emissaries after the meeting held last week.
The meeting was also reportedly attended by officials from the ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, ministry of Justice, National Prosecution Authority, the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Minerals and Border Control unit and the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks).
“Conservation and tourism go hand in hand and my government is committed to ensuring the safety of visitors and to working with partners to increase our conservation efforts to protect our natural world,” Mnangagwa’s statement further said.
“We undertake this commitment not just for the people of Zimbabwe but to allow people around the world to experience one of the most beautiful countries in Africa.
“I am also proud to recognise the women rangers of the Akashinga project, who my daughter Tariro joined late last year. Women will play a vital role in the rebuilding of Zimbabwe.
“Through this programme, women are being empowered to make a positive contribution to their communities and to protect our precious wildlife. We salute their bravery and commitment.”
Mnangagwa paid tribute to the Akashinga conservation project which was the first to rope in women in the fight against poaching. Chief advisor to the president, Chris Mutsvangwa, said Mnangagwa pledged his commitment to the conservation of the country’s environment.
“In light of the recent export of elephants from Zimbabwe, the government is reviewing conservation decisions of the previous dispensation and formulating a policy to move forward,” said Mutsvangwa.
ZimParks pulic relations manager, Tinashe Farawo, also confirmed the meetings.
“The president welcomed representatives of the Tikki Hywood Foundation to learn about its work with partners in government and conservation organisations that has led to Zimbabwe being recognised as an African leader in Pangolin conservation.
“Pangolin is the most highly trafficked mammal in the world, and, through effective strategy and partnership across these organisations, Zimbabwe now has the highest conviction rate for pangolin related crimes within Africa and is a leading voice in the global movement for its protection,” said Farawo
“As an authority, we are happy with the support we are getting from the highest office in the land.
“We are going to ensure that we sustainability utilise our wildlife for the benefit of Zimbabweans in line with the president’s vision,” he added.