Zim considers exiting Cites to sell ivory

Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is considering leaving the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to sell its stockpile of elephant tusks, said to be biggest in the world and worth about $300 million.

As a signatory to the convention, the struggling country is barred from selling ivory in support of a long-standing attempt by Cites to curb poaching.

Director-general for the country’s Parks and Wildlife Management Forum, Fulton Mangwanya, remarked that frustration was mounting in Zim over “other countries prescribing how we should handle our animals”.

Zimbabwe is already selling elephants to China, the world’s largest processor of ivory, but the money raised from live animal exports to Asia is not enough to sustain Zim’s elephant population, the world’s largest and numbering some 84 000 at last count.

Zimbabwe’s government recently stated that its elephant population was at least twice the size it could support, and now seemed to have identified a way to ‘deal’ with pachyderm over-capacity.

The announcement comes in the wake of a hunting ban on elephants recently lifted in Botswana after that country’s government in Gaborone said its elephant population was too large, was causing environmental damage that often impacted on agriculture, and also posed a danger to people.

According to Mangwanya they have the support of Namibia, Botswana and Zambia in their considerations around commodifying its elephant assets.

He added that although China was wavering about ivory from Zimbabwe, Japan had already expressed interest in buying significant quantities of its stockpile, if not all of it.

If Zimbabwe breaks ranks and places its ivory stock on the open market, it will be the first time since 2009 that an SADC country will have held such a sale.

Mangwanya said: “We need the revenue!”

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