Region rallies together in push for sustainable trade in ivory 

Source: Region rallies together in push for sustainable trade in ivory | The Herald May 11, 2019

Region rallies together in push for sustainable trade in ivory
Mr Farawo . . . “We are saying our people must benefit from the resource. People have been impoverished by these animals for no benefit”

President Mnangagwa this week attended the Kasane Elephant Summit which brought together three other Heads of State from Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, whose countries are part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area to map out a common strategy on the sustainable management of elephants. The four countries constitute the biggest elephant range land in the world. Elliot Ziwira (EZ), our senior reporter speaks to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo (TF) on the proceedings and outcome of the summit which deliberated on a range of contentious issues which included the human-wildlife conflict, trade in ivory and ivory products, poaching, and the impact of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) ban on trade.

EZ: Can you share with us the major purpose of the just-ended Elephant Summit held in Kasane, Botswana?

TF: The Elephant Summit, which was hosted by Botswana in the resort town of Kasane touched on issues to do with human-wildlife conflict and far-reaching decisions were made with regards to our elephants.

The most important thing or what the Heads of States agreed on and recommended among other things, was ensuring that our peoples benefit from wildlife resources that are abundant.

There is need to ensure that we protect our people from elephants. We have heard of the problem of the ballooning numbers of elephants within the region, especially within the Kaza TFC, which is the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Of the 400 000 elephants in the world, 61 percent are found in the SADC region, and of the 61 percent, more than 75 percent are found in the Kaza TFC area. The ballooning numbers have caused a lot of problems.

EZ: Elephants and other wild animals often destroy crops and even kill people living in areas adjacent to national parks.

What is your comment on this in relation to the summit?

TF: People have lost lives, communities have lost their livelihoods, and crops were destroyed without any benefit to the people, yet the animals are roaming freely.

So, the most important thing is making sure that our people benefit, and we must sustainably continue to utilise our resources.

As a country we are sitting on more than 84 000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 50 000, which means we have an excess of more than 30 000 elephants.

The same applies to Botswana, which has the largest elephant population in the world at around 130 000 elephants, and we are second. Elephant numbers are also ballooning in Zambia and South Africa. So, these are the problems we confront as authorities within the respective countries. There is goodwill and support from governments, and we want to protect our people from wildlife.

As a country, we have lost more than 200 people over the past five years due to the human-wildlife conflict. Of those 200, 40 percent are due to human-elephant conflicts, and we are saying we must protect our people, and we must protect life. The other 60 percent is attributable to conflict with other wild animals like lions and hyenas.

Crops are also destroyed, and in some regions in Botswana, farming has been stopped altogether due to the destruction caused by wild animals, elephants being chief among them. While we were in Kasane, ironically, a child was killed by an elephant, so that is how bad the situation is.

The good thing is that leaders at the highest level met, and decisions are going to be made. They have also resolved to go to CITES later on this year as a united front, speaking as one voice with regards to our elephants and our communities, which are supposed to benefit, because people living side by side with elephants bear the brunt of these animals. So what we want is to ensure that roads, schools and clinics are built and medicines are provided to support our communities.

EZ: One of the issues raised was that within CITES, Botswana and Zimbabwe seem not to be benefiting much when it comes to the issue of hunting.

Was this issue raised at the summit, and how is the issue of hunting licences going to be addressed?

TF: Before the Kasane meeting, we had the Kaza Conference in Victoria Falls. Kaza is a grouping of five countries where we converge on Kavango-Zambezi.

The five countries met through the ministers of environment. At that meeting, the Botswana Minister of Environment Honourable Kitso Mokaila apologised for not participating in Kaza, and for whatever was happening before the new government.

The Botswana government then went back to the people to ask what needs to be done, so those were the things that were discussed, and decisions were made. The people spoke highly of what they wanted done; they want to benefit. We are for sustainable use as a country and the region is now speaking with one voice in terms of sustainable utilisation of its resources.

We are saying our people must benefit from the resource. People have been impoverished by these animals for no benefit.

We want people to benefit through job opportunities, and improved infrastructure like roads because wildlife is a business.

EZ: If the decision goes to CITES and we are given the go ahead to trade in ivory within the region, how much would all the countries stand to benefit in terms of finances, tourism and hunting?

TF: As Zimbabwe, we are sitting on more than 100 000kg of ivory worth more than $300 million.

That money can do wonders in our conservation drive. We believe that elephants must pay for their own upkeep. We are talking of law enforcement. We talk of security. We talk of provision of water in habitats. In fact, the biggest threat to our animals is loss of habitat. Habitat is being fragmented. Hwange National Park alone, which is almost the size of Belgium runs on 100 percent borehole water, because there are no rivers.

We need money to pump those boreholes, and those are Kalahari sands. In Kalahari sands, you need to dig up to 200m to get water.

We need to provide water, so that money needs to be put back into conservation. That money would be ploughed back into communities so that people who would have lost their relatives at least accrue something. Those are the issues.

That is why the leaders have been calling for the lifting of the ban on ivory trade so that people can benefit and animals are protected through law enforcement. We do joint operations with neighbouring countries to protect those animals. There is involvement of man management, and it requires resources. We need water like I said earlier on.

EZ: So what was the resolution passed at the elephant summit with regards to the timeframes allowed to go and ask CITES to allow the region to start selling their ivory?

TF: Proposals were made and submitted to CITES. CITES was supposed to be held in the last week of May into the first week of June, but it was postponed after the bombings in Sri Lanka.

It will be held later on this year, but the clarion call from the region is that our people must benefit.

We must be allowed to trade so that at least we benefit and improve our economies, and protect the animals.

EZ: Recently, Malaysia destroyed ivory worth US$3,2 million in an alleged bid to curb illegal ivory trade. In your view, is this the best way to fight poaching and illegal trade in ivory?

TF: There is no evidence to prove that destroying stockpiles of ivory and ivory products or banning trade in ivory can curb poaching and illegal trade in ivory.

Rhino trading was banned more than 40 years ago, but it has not helped in curbing poaching; they are being poached every day, so there is no relationship in that regard. We are still having running battles with poachers. Only yesterday (Thursday), two rhino poachers were shot dead.

There is need for involvement at all levels of governance. There is need for awareness campaigns in the communities so that human-wildlife conflict is addressed.

Our people, not only in Zimbabwe but in the region, should be made aware of what conservation is. The numbers of elephants and other wild animals should be kept at sustainable numbers to benefit people and animals alike.

Tourism is not about unsustainable numbers, we can still build our tourism with whatever numbers we can sustainably take care of.