Live elephant sales better than culling

via Live elephant sales better than culling | The Herald January 26, 2015 by Jeffrey Gogo

GOVERNMENT’S intention to dispose of excess live elephants at a large commercial scale, is one of the noble investments Zimbabwe can make for the future of its people; to biodiversity; and also to expedite the implementation of effective wildlife management systems.

Seeing there is no shortage of wild animals in Zimbabwe, and that there is strong global demand, Government has resolved to offload some of its stock to the elephant-deprived countries of France, China and the United Arab Emirates.

There are nearly 80 000 elephants in the country’s game reserves and that’s twice as much Zimbabwe’s finite resources can handle.

A herd this big can be a nightmare for any developing country where conservation ranks low on the economic priority list.

Selling the excess elephants — numbering over 40 000 — will eliminate competition and conflict for limited resources such as water, forage and habitat between the animals themselves, and with humans.

An adult animal gallops no less than 200 litres of water each day. That’s approximately 16 million litres of water per day for all Zimbabwe’s herd, enough to nourish a small town like Rusape and its 30 000 residents.

In Hwange, which hosts the country’s biggest animal reserve with 43 000 elephants, water is a perennial challenge.

The area lies in agro-ecological zone 5, the driest region in the whole of Zimbabwe, where annual precipitation is below 400mm.

Some $500 000 will be needed annually to quench the great thirst of the animals at Hwange National Park alone, Mr Geoffreys Matipano, conservation director at Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe told Bloomberg in December.

But live sales cuts this cost significantly and rakes in extra income that helps expand conservation beyond elephants, but also to include the different wildlife species around Zimbabwe.

Big bucks

Parks and Wildlife Authority spokesperson Ms Caroline-Washaya Moyo refused to provide data on the actual cost of each elephant, but it is understood that it can reach up to $60 000.

This could mean Zimbabwe earned over $400 000 when it shipped a family of seven elephants to the UAE late last year.

Earnings from the sale of 10 elephants will be enough to deliver a year’s water supply to the herd at Hwange National Park, hosting 28 000 more elephants than it can accommodate.

Wildlife trade is now a multi-billion dollar business. In the best case scenario, Zimbabwe could earn $2,4 billion assuming its excess herd is offloaded for the top price of $60 000.

There are numerous variables to consider before this data can be treated as fact. But this gives one a rough idea of what is that at stake. I doubt the Government of Zimbabwe’s decision to sell has been motivated by money.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere Saviour Kasukuwere and Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi have both affirmed to the global press the country’s elephant population was overstocked and difficult to manage.

And even when the potential earnings were a true motivating factor, so what? The country has a right to draw income from its natural resources, surely.

Wildlife is a natural resource in Zimbabwe, key to socio-economic development and deserving of national protection.

Disposing excess stock will not in any way diminish the socio-economic and environmental roles played by elephants in Zimbabwe. In more ways than one, these functions will be enhanced.

Better than culling

Worldwide, elephants are an endangered species, but in Zimbabwe they endanger human lives and livelihoods, and destroy biodiversity.

Countless media reports speak of the damage visited on crops and native forests by elephants, the biggest mammal on land weighing up to 6 000kg.

By degrading forests and destroying plant species, elephants are directly challenging the social and environmental dynamics in rural areas, which share borders with conservancies or national parks.

This is particularly grievous, occurring at a time when communities, already on the margins of society, have to contend with the dangerous impacts of climate change such as water scarcity and severe crop losses.

Forest degradation impacts negatively on climates at a micro-level. Carbon stocks depreciate, greenhouse gases emissions escalate and temperatures rise. Livelihoods for communities that depend on forests for income generation or food are disrupted.

Live animal sales represent the most appropriate, logical and efficient strategy to address existing national imbalances in biodiversity conservation.

It is better than culling (killing), a practice that decimated nearly 50 000 elephants in the 40 years to 1998 when it was eventually outlawed following pressure from conservationists who described culling as “inhumane.”

“This (live elephant sales) is a noble plan if the market can be found,” said Mr Peter Gondo, conservationist at Safire in Harare, a not-for-profit regional organisation promoting rural development through the sustainable management of natural resources.

Due to the over-population, as elephants forage for food, “they destroy own habitats and are being forced to move to areas outside the protected game areas resulting in increases in wildlife conflicts,” he said.

Examples of destroyed habitats are Mana Pools and Hwange National Park. Similar destruction is taking place in parts of Gonarezhou.

“Thus the option of relocation to lowly populated areas is desirable. If those who have the potential habitats are willing to pay for the animals then this is a bonus as the income generated can then be used to improve infrastructure for wildlife management in our parks,” Mr Gondo explained.

Nothing illegal

Those sponsored to oppose sales of elephants from Zimbabwe, like Pearce Brosnan, who once acted as the fictional James Bond character, need to gain special understanding of the country’s wildlife landscape before irresponsibly commenting on issues they do not fully comprehend.

Zimbabwe is not doing anything illegal nor is it violating international conventions. Under CITES, the global watchdog for endangered animal species, Zimbabwe’s elephants are listed in Appendix II, which allows for “trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations.”

These conditions have been met. CITES acknowledged as much in December.

“The CITES Scientific Authority of Zimbabwe has advised that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species,” the Secretariat of CITES said in a statement last month.

“The CITES Management Authority of Zimbabwe is satisfied that any living specimen will be so prepared and shipped as to minimise the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment.”

In Appendix I, ivory sales are banned. When this is relaxed occasionally to allow for trade, the system is still strongly controlled.

Zimbabwe’s ivory is thus classified. No sales have been made outside the CITES’ Appendix I guidance, as a measure of respect and honour to global conventions that aim to tame poaching. The result has been a burgeoning stockpile of decaying elephant tusks at the Parks and Wildlife Authority, notwithstanding existing strong demand for legal ivory.

In light of this, where Zimbabwe is in the right, the basis for de-campaigning the country’s sale of live animals to interested countries from some local conservationists led by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is clearly emotional, frivolous, unwarranted and unwanted.

God is faithful.




  • comment-avatar
    J. Calbert 6 years ago

    Who in their right mind can turn the brutal taking of a handful of baby elephants from their mothers, brutal in light of what scientists know about them, into something about “over-population” and “forest degradation”???????? This government never listens to anyone but themselves and these government officials would sell their own mothers if they could. The world will take revenge, the world tourists will continue to support other African countries instead. Bravo to them, when they boycott you baboons in government might wake up. Your neighbour who we flee to for help and assistance, South Africa, banned this brutal practice a long time ago, yet Zimbabwe just now start it up only for money. All about money, money, money.

  • comment-avatar
    wildlifer 6 years ago

    Did i get it right? Live sales of elephants!!!! Yes, thats the story now. Nomatter how good you put it forward to the sympathy of the nation or internation focus, the truth remains the same. Poverty alleviation strategy. Zimbos, these spiced stories will do us no good in conserving our countries’ heritage-wildlife. I penned down the strategies behind this be it long term or short term:

    Lender of the last resort for zim gvt. Since its failed attempts to sell ivory it has now resorted to live sale which is rather a lucrative deal. Yes we will get the money for only 1 month. Then whats next to sell????

    The rogue Eu members will accept and facilitate the deal as long as they are the buyers for the endangered species. Infact they will foster the process and probably bid better to lure us to clear our jumbo stocks-the national pride

    Overstocking of elephants in zim parks is not scientifically justified.Maybe Hwange.Its the new wave of desktop researchers who are publishing falsified information on elephant status in Zim. But why sell outside then? A number of local parks both private and public offer good habitats for elephants. Why not relieve the population there? e.g Bubye Valley conservancy.

    Is Botswana doing the same? It have the biggest elephant population in the world on a small range. Will the ecotourism remain the same? What about the funding from these potential buyers?? Now that they may have the commodity. About how the money will b used is none of my businnes.

    On this move, EU, USA, ASIA and all our pseudo friends etc etc,will rubber stamp this madness knowing that Zim will be stripped its pride if not international significance to them. African jumbos in Berlin!!!!! They wont bother us again nor suppport our conservation.

    Food for thought