PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa who have been able to conserve their wildlife should not be punished by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) through unfair trade restrictions.
CITES regulates trade in certain flora and fauna species as a way of saving them from extinction and regularly give the node for sustainable trade and utilisation.
However, some countries like Zimbabwe who have more than their carrying capacity for certain species such as elephants are of the view that CITES should open more windows of the trade so that they reduce their herd and also sell their stockpiles of ivory which is estimated to be worth around US$600 million.
Zimbabwe currently has about 88 000 elephants against a carrying capacity of 55 000 and this has seen an increase in human and wildlife conflicts where some animals have ended up being killed or villagers losing their crops and livestock.
Southern Africa especially countries in the KAZA are hopeful that they will convince CITES for more favourable trade regulation at the upcoming CoP18 (World Wildlife Conference) which is scheduled for 17-28 August in Geneva (Switzerland) this year.
CITES on its part has also indicated that they are going to review various proposals from member countries that are advocating for change in protection levels and trade regulations for about 500 protected species.
Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa are proposing relaxed trade regulations in a bid to clear out excess wildlife while the likes of Kenya and others are calling for total bans especially with regards to elephant and ivory trade.
Kenya which is said to be a beneficiary of Green Climate Fund and other environment funds burnt its 105 tonnes stockpile of ivory and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horns in 2016 and want other countries to follow the same way.
According to reports Kenya wants elephants to be moved from Appendix 2 (sustainable use and regulated trade) to Appendix 1 (total ban of sustainable use and trade).
Speaking during the Africa Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls last month (June) President Mnangagwa said countries in Southern Africa have been able to conserve their wildlife and should be allowed the free regulated trade of wildlife and not be punished for their good works.
“My views are that wildlife, in particular, Sothern Africa, I understand that when the Lord created the world, he also created animals of every kind and then put Adam and Eve to look after them, Southern Africa has kept that promise with God, others elsewhere have not kept the word of God, we in Southern Africa are ready to assist those who have not kept the word of God to redeem themselves by us affording to trade with them.
“We have an excess of wildlife in our region and I think it is important that we introduce a system or regulation where we are allowed the free regulated trade of wildlife so that we who have kept the word of God can also assist those countries by extending to them our excess wildlife in our countries.
“I think it is unfair that we get punished for being good to Gods promise, animal products like ivory whether you like it or not one day the elephant will die without being poached when it dies the tusk will remain there and we are saying those products are valuable so let us find a model of trade where we capacitate those countries that have kept wildlife to continue to do so by providing fencing, security and monitoring,” he said.
Mnangagwa added that wildlife has always been at the heart of African people who were innovative enough to ensure they create a mechanism of some sort through the introduction of totems.
“For instance I will speak about Zimbabwe, our forefathers were very wise they introduced totems, for example, I a lion so I don’t eat a lion, some of my colleagues are elephants they don’t eat elephants and some are zebras and so forth, that way we were able to conserve these animals because all the animals are shared totems and today we have wildlife in our area,” he said.
The Zimbabwean President also took the opportunity to pay tribute to former Presidents in Southern Africa for coming up with the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) conservative in a bid to give wildlife more freedom of movement.
KAZA TFCA is an area where five countries (Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe) meet and it covers a space area of about 519,912 km²
“I am very proud that our predecessors as my colleagues have said created the KAZA Conservative and also if you go down South Africa and Mozambique they are also connected where we have given huge space for wildlife to travel without VISAs.
“So we should be commended for that our brothers and sisters from the other parts of the world should assist in funding for us to continue to preserve this situation,” he said.