Southern Africa states threaten to quit global wildlife trade regulator

Monday, September 2nd, 2019 00:00 |
Regional population estimates. Photo/Courtesy

Johannesburg, Sunday

Southern African nations are threatening to quit the global wildlife trade regulator after it refused to relax restrictions on trade in ivory and rhino horn and imposed a near-total ban on zoos taking African elephants captured in the wild.

Ties soured during this week’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva after numerous proposals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc were rejected.

Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe —home to the world’s largest elephant population—asked for the right to sell ivory acquired through natural deaths, confiscations and culling. The demand was rejected by a majority of 101 votes.

The CITES treaty, created more than four decades ago, regulates trade in some 36,000 species of plants and animals and provides mechanisms to help crackdown on illegal trade and sanction countries that break the rules.

But members of the 16-nation SADC bloc accuse it of turning a blind eye to Africa’s problems.

“The result has been a failure to adopt progressive, equitable, inclusive and science-based conservation strategies,” Tanzanian Environment Minister George Simbachawene told the Geneva meeting.

“Time has come to seriously reconsider whether there are any meaningful benefits from our membership to CITES,” he said.

The ministers accused the regulatory body of bowing to animal rights groups and unreasonably prohibiting the trade of African wildlife and products rather than regulating it fairly.

“A great disappointment, shocking outcomes,” said Botswana’s Environment Minister Onkokame Kitso Mokaila.

“I think CITES has long passed its sell-by date,” he said, adding SADC needs “something else... that speaks to the issues of today.”

No member has permanently quit the Convention since it was adopted in 1963. The United Arab Emirates withdrew in 1988 but rejoined in 1990.

The largely aid-dependent SADC region hosts the lion’s share of Africa’s wildlife.  Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa blasted the decision not to relax ivory laws saying the money, estimated to have a combined value of $600 million, could fund conservation projects. 

“They bar us from killing our animals for selling ivory, but they want us to protect them from being poached,” he protested.

Namibian Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta said CITES was “increasingly becoming a forum dominated by non-state players with the agenda to divide and rule African states.”  -AFP

More on World