PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has called on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to revert back to its founding principles of promoting sustainable utilisation of natural resources as compared to banning.
Zimbabwe has about 88 000 elephants across national parks in the country at a time it is supposed to be 55 000 which translate to a surplus of about 33 000.
But due to CITES restrictions, the country is unable to dispose of the surplus elephants which are making it difficult to manage thereby leading to the increased cases of wildlife and human conflicts.
Currently, such animal as elephants and rhinos are classified by CITES into Appendix 2 which allow strictly guided sustainable use of these species and there are rumours that there are intentions to move them to Appendix 1 which even ban sustainable use.
Speaking at the official opening of the Africa Wildlife Economy Summit in Victoria Falls, President Mnangagwa said although Zimbabwe subscribes to CITES, it is however concerned by the approach it is taking.
“Zimbabwe subscribes to the founding principles of the Cites. We remain committed to the adherence of its protocols and rules. We are gravely concerned by the one-size-fits-all approach, where the banning of trade is creeping into the CITES decision-making process.
“We call upon the institution to resist the temptation of being a policing institution and instead be a developmental once which promotes the intricate balance between conservation and sustainable utilisation of all wildlife resources,” he said.
CITES is being accused of being captured by the “animal-lovers” who are reportedly trying to divert its agenda of promoting sustainable utilisation to total bans.
According to President Mnangagwa, the fact that Southern Africa has about 50 per cent of the continent’s elephant species is a testimony of its ability to sustainably manage the resources.
“In relation to the conservation of elephants, the Savannah elephants, which are predominantly found in Southern Africa, constitute approximately 50 per cent of the continent’s elephant species. This bears testimony to our region’s success in championing sustainable conservation programs.
“In addition, the region has the largest range area and elephants numbers which extend beyond designated wildlife areas to include communal areas. This success must be duly recognised, while our voices and concerns are given due consideration.
“Zimbabwe currently has US$600 million worth of ivory and rhino horns stocks most of which is from natural attrition of these animals.
“If we are allowed to sell dispose the same under agreed to parameters, the revenue derived therefrom would suffice to finance our operational conservation efforts for the next 20 years,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, Environment, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the summit is a good platform to share ideas on wildlife economy.
“The summit affords the continent a unique opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas in wildlife management. We also hope it can unite all stakeholders and diverse players in the wildlife sector.
“These range from political leadership, communities and the private sector who all need to join hands to come up with ideas and solutions designated to bring about sustainable socio-economic benefits to our people,” she said.