via Ivory stockpile soars Sunday, 27 October by Prince Mushawevato for Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe’s ivory stockpile has risen by more than 10 tonnes in the past 12 months and Government is imploring the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to be allowed to sell part of it.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority show that over the past year the stockpile – from ivory confiscated from poachers, including animals killed for population control and those that have died of natural causes, grew from 50 tonnes to 62 tonnes.
Indications are that the Parks Authority collects an average of one tonne per month. Calculated on the local wholesale price, the current stockpile is valued at close to US$15,5 million.
Parks Authority director-general Mr Edison Chidziya said in an interview last week the burgeoning stockpile has come at a heavy cost for the financially hamstrung authority as it is costing thousands of dollars every month in maintenance and security.
“We presently estimate the stockpile to be around 60 000 kilogrammes. The figure is way above our normal holding capacity. Practically, we have run out of storage space. And this is the reason why Zimbabwe and like-minded countries have been lobbying for a temporary waiver of the moratorium,” he said.
Government’s proposals for special permission to sell its ivory before the expiry of the moratorium have not been successful. A nine-year moratorium was sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2007 in a bid to curb illegal trade in ivory, which threatened both elephants and rhinoceros with extinction.
Mr Chidziya said the rate at which the stockpile was increasing meant that new facilities had to be created, but the idea was not feasible.
“At this rate we would need to build a new storage facility. However, we do not have resources to put up such a structure given the financial position we are in. Our resources are presently divided towards the overall parks operations that include patrols, storage and maintenance of the stockpile,” he explained.
With the moratorium in place, the country currently cannot trade in raw ivory on the international market. Zimbabwe was last allowed to trade in registered stocks of raw elephant ivory in 2008.
The local market, which is largely unaffected by the moratorium, lacks the wherewithal to consume significant amounts. Ivory traders argue that the wholesale price of ivory and the licence fee to engage in the business is prohibitive.
Experts estimate that the country consumes less than a tonne of ivory annually. But the authorities contend that the price at US$250 for a kilogramme of ivory and US$800 for a licence is reasonable given the value and demand for the commodity.
“Local consumption of the product is dependent on the number of players involved in this trade. A lot of traders have a wait-and-see approach. Ivory trade triumphs on the success of tourism.
“If arrivals increase, it means more volumes in terms of manufactured products are sold and, in turn, we get to sell more of our stock,” added Mr Chidziya.
Presently, there are at least 50 registered ivory traders in the country. Although the country is currently under a nine-year Cites ivory trade moratorium, pundits contend that there are other business options to control the stockpile. For instance, the country has been urged to value add the ivory and export finished products and also to consider exporting live elephants to scientifically approved destinations.
Meanwhile, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is currently conducting an exercise to ascertain the number of elephants in the country. Estimates place the figure at 100 000. The authority requires over US$10 million annually for various administration costs.
Major costs are incurred in retrieving ivory from the field, treating it for preservation, transporting to different centres for storage and for security.
Last week diamond miner Mbada Diamonds delivered five of the 20 pledged 4×4 Land-Rover vehicles to help in the fight against poaching.
Recently, more than 100 elephants from Hwange National Park died from cyanide poisoning administered by poachers.