A ZIMBABWEAN delegation led by Environment and Tourism minister Francis Nhema is in Thailand to back a bid at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) conference by so
uthern African countries to resume trade in ivory.
Nhema left the country on Tuesday with a delegation of officials from his ministry and National Parks. The Cites conference starts tomorrow.
Zimbabwe will support southern African countries – Namibia, Botswana and South Africa – at Cites in their bid to be allowed to sell their ivory to control their growing elephant populations.
Zimbabwe will not present a position paper of its own on the issue.
Conservation groups allege that Zimbabwe is overestimating its elephant population to justify a campaign to sell ivory.
“Zimbabwe shares borders with South Africa and Botswana. This means elephant censuses are not accurate since elephants can be counted more than twice in any of the countries that they cross into at any given time,” Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, said.
Government puts Zimbabwe’s elephant population at 100 000, a figure hotly disputed by conservation groups. Zimbabwe has a capacity to carry 45 000 elephants only.
Rodrigues said allowing South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to resume trade in ivory would prove disastrous as the poaching of elephants would rise sharply.
“The elephant is already facing extinction due to culling, wanton poaching and hunting by newly-resettled farmers and we dispute the figures provided by government on that basis,” he said.
Zimbabwe is expected to oppose a proposal by Kenya to have lions lifted from Appendix 1 to Appendix 2 or gain special protection after the East African country argued that its population of lions was facing extinction.
The National Parks authority has banned the hunting of lion in the Hwange area after trophy-hunting expeditions led to the depletion of the national pride. The move to oppose Kenya’s move has raised suspicions among conservation groups.
Kenya’s efforts at the Cites meeting are expected to face stiff opposition from other countries in the region where trophy hunting for lions is permitted.
Trophy hunting is permitted in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia.