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Mnangagwa hailed for Cites pullout plan

29 Aug 2019 at 07:35hrs | Views
President Mnangagwa's announcement that Zimbabwe plans to pull out of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (Cites) has triggered excitement in Geneva, Switzerland at the Cites CoP18.

The pro-sustainable use delegates from different parts of the world who view Cites as having continued to punish Sadc countries by denying them their sovereign rights to trade in ivory and rhino horn said that Zimbabwe should do what is right for its elephants and its people - pull out and trade in ivory.

"That's the way to go (reservations and pull out)", said Namibia's Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta.

"I think many other Sadc countries, especially those who have burdens of living with wildlife should pull out. In fact, we are going to sit and take stock. We are not happy with CITES CoP18 and CoP17. We can pull out, we have other partners who can help us to support our conservation by trading with us. We don't want donations. We are being punished at every CITES."

He said that the Western animal rights group had an agenda to frustrate and restrict the Sadc countries' wildlife products trading agenda.  

"Southern Africa will take a position as from now, now," said Minister Shifeta.  Speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony for the upgrading of a 6.5 kilometre stretch along the Harare-Chirundu Highway, last week President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe could express reservations before pulling out of CITES.

According to CITES articles XV, XVI and XXIII, a reservations or pullout of CITES over a particular species means that Zimbabwe in this context or Sadc countries would no longer be members of CITES with respect to a particular species (in this case the elephant) and no longer restricted from trading in ivory with other countries that might also pull out of CITES or the ones that are not the members of the Convention.

However, the pullout process has to be done over a 90-day period and they should lodge their pullout notice to CITES. Therefore, the next three months shall be crucial for the future of Zimbabwe's elephants and people who continue to be compromised with extinction and limited socio-economic benefits, respectively as long as CITES ivory ban continues to be enforced.

Zimbabwe has never gone on reservations although it had planned to in 1989. The country, however, did not go through with it because the ivory buying countries that had also planned to pull out so that they could buy from Zimbabwe did not pull out.  

"I can understand the frustration of Southern African countries and Zimbabwe, whereby they have made immense efforts to save their elephants and other species and yet the CITES Convention and this CoP18 is not rewarding the Sadc countries' conservation efforts," said Italian wildlife management and sustainable use expert, Marco Pani.  

"Leaving CITES, is in the text of the Convention - if the Western countries continue to unfairly deny Sadc countries their sovereign rights to benefit from ivory and rhino, it's in the text of CITES that they can leave."

Mr Pani said that CITES has been hijacked by animal rights groups and would not be surprised if other parties leave because they continue to be denied the opportunity to trade in their resources.

"Trade is what is making the world go round, our cell phones, clothes are being sold and providing benefits to the people," he said.

"Why should wildlife not bring benefits to the people, especially the poor rural communities? The continued prevention of people from benefiting from wildlife is no longer a wildlife issue, it's much more a human rights issue."

He said that the happiest people when trade continues to be banned are poachers.  

"The poachers, smugglers and Western animal rights groups (through fundraising) are the ones who benefit and not the owners of wildlife when the ban continues," he said.

A consultant of the Chinese was seen excitedly asking people about President Mnangagwa's announcement but China recently shut down its ivory markets. However, Zimbabwe and Sadc countries have many markets including one of the biggest ivory markets, Japan, to which they could sell all their ivory.

Speaking in his personal capacity, former Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority board member, Mr George Pangeti said he was excited to note that Zimbabwe was planning to exercise its sovereign rights to benefit from the sales of its US$600 million worth of ivory stockpiles to benefit wildlife conservation and the people. Mr Pangeti said he supported anything that has to do with sustainable use.

"The reaction of Sadc countries to CITES' continued trade ban on ivory is that of disappointment and they will certainly be consulting one another on the way forward," said Mr Pangeti.  

"President Mnangagwa's statement is attracting attention and both ministers of Botswana and Namibia are frustrated by the ivory trade ban. This points to a Sadc-wide consultative process in the next 90 days."

The Zimbabwe CITES reservations and pullout plan comes at a time when Sadc countries are beginning to think owning elephants and rhinos is a "curse" because CITES continues to ban international trade in their stockpiled ivory and rhino horn.

"We fought for political independence and we now have it," said Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Director of Wildlife, Dr Maurus Msuha.

"The next fight for us is now the fight for the right to use our resources for the development of our people. This needs political pressure from our governments who should say that we don't need this anymore (being denied our sovereign rights to trade in our wildlife products)."

Dr Msuha said the Sadc media "needs to be here" (CoP18) to cover these controversial decisions and explain to our people how they will affect us positively or negatively in the future.  

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda declared that the CITES Secretariat needed to note for the record that it believed the rejection of Sadc countries' ivory trade bid was inconsistent, and might be construed as "racist." Observers of the ongoing Sadc countries ivory trade frustrations said sadly, the Western animal rights groups and their governments do not care that the anti-trade decisions continue to create a wildlife-poaching crisis in the Sadc region.

This in turn is driving thousands of elephants and rhinos annually toward extinction. Sadc conservationists have continued to argue that the ban on ivory trade does not stop poaching; it ironically fuels it. It has not and will never save a single rhino or elephant.

The ban has been in force for the past 44 years but poaching and illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn continue daily. The media is awash with stories of poaching and illegal trade.

Observers at CITES CoP18 noted that such massive wildlife destruction could be shown in real time as the Amazon fires are being shown live on television, then the G7 leaders that met in southern France this week might have seen how the West is guilty of destroying wildlife by sponsoring trade bans that not only harm wildlife but also continue to trap Africans in untold poverty.

"CITES is a strange fish," said the Managing Director of the US-based Ivory Education Institute.

"The treaty is a US invention created by the animal welfare groups and the US, not the UN, is its depository. Every three years it brings the signatories to the treaty together, but paid the expenses of 94 of the 140 or so delegations registered for the Geneva meeting. Each delegate gets about $8 000 each to attend. Notably, getting to and from the sixth most expensive city in the world, Geneva, is not cheap."

There appears to be enough padding in the stipend to put these delegations in the "pockets" of the US and the EU which meet the CITES budget, through government funds and private contributions. The numbers in attendance give the appearance of its worldwide importance, but in fact this is an organisation controlled by a few countries and the major non-governmental organisations.

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

Source - chronicle
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