Ministerial Statement: CITES Conference Resolutions
Acting Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Honourable Mangaliso Ndlovu:Thank you, Mr. Speaker Sir. I am presenting the Ministerial Statement in my capacity as the Acting Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry following a special request by Hon. Chinanzvavana on the 25thof September. For the benefit of Hon. Members who might not recall the question; through you Mr. Speaker Sir, I will paraphrase what she had requested. She said that in Zimbabwe, there are so many elephants that are affecting people’s livelihoods. She then highlighted that she had gone to the conference and did not see it prudent to get the delegates from this Parliament. She then requested for a Ministerial Statement on the CITES Conference resolutions, seeing that as a country we may not be part of Convention on International Trade on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Well, I do not know what that actually meant.
Mr Speaker Sir, I just want to briefly highlight to this august House on the proceedings of the CITES which took place in Geneva from the 17thto the 28thof August, 2019. As a background, this Convention was created to regulate international trade in wild species of flora and fauna in order to ensure that trade does not lead to over-exploitation and threaten their survival. As a country, we became a member in 1981.
The 18th Conference of Parties for CITES was held in Geneva, Switzerland from the 17th to the 28th of August and the Zimbabwe delegation comprised of myself as the leader, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, senior Government officials and also included was Ambassador Mushayavanhu from the Zimbabwe Embassy in Geneva. Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira who represented traditional leaders and the Senate was also in attendance. Non-State actors included the Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Association, wildlife researchers and representatives from the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe.
There are fundamental challenges that we have observed which we registered during the proceedings as SADC. SADC Member states including Zimbabwe, are committed to the implementation of the CITES Treaty. However, it has become apparent that given the manner in which CITES has been implemented over the past 30 years, SADC member states especially Zimbabwe will not be allowed to fully derive benefit from sustainable conservation.
The interpretation of the text of the Convention has evolved in such a manner that some decisions adopted at the Conference of Parties (COP) tend to deviate from or undermine the actual provisions of the treaty.
Efforts to sustainably utilise wildlife have been frustrated by the continued counter-proposals. The 32 member African Elephant Coalition group led by Kenya and mainly composed of Francophone countries with support from civic society have been on an unrelenting campaign to stop any trade in wildlife or its derivatives.
The Southern Africa region is regrettably not solidly united in conservation philosophy as one or two countries in the region are siding with the coalition.
I now move to the summary of key proposals and outcomes: the first one is the amendment to annotation pertaining to the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The main motivation of our proposal was for CITES to agree to remove some redundancies in the Annotation (Restrictions) to our Appendix II listing of elephants and to pave way for commercial trade in our ivory stockpile following the lapse of the nine-year moratorium which expired in December 2017. Critics of this proposal argue the unconfirmed notion that legal trade in ivory will stimulate illegal trade, hence encourage poaching of the African elephant.
This proposal went into a vote and was rejected. The KAZA elephant population remains in Appendix II of CITES, however without a mechanism to facilitate ivory trade.
The second proposal related to transfer populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from Appendix II to Appendix I – the proposal of up-listing our elephant populations to Appendix I was sponsored by Kenya supported by other Francophone countries. Our main argument in opposing this argument was that our population do not meet the biological criteria for listing in Appendix I. The effect of listing in Appendix I is that it will restrict all manner of trade in line species including for conservation methods. Only after a spirited fight was the proposal rejected in a vote.
The third proposal was to up-list all giraffe species in Appendix II. This was proposed by the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal. This proposal to list our giraffe in Appendix II was accepted in a vote. The listing creates a serious and unnecessary reporting burden for range countries in Southern Africa whose populations are stable and in fact growing and do not meet the criteria for up-listing. Like-minded SADC states, therefore, resolved to enter a reservation to have our giraffe population excluded.
The fourth proposal is that of the definition of appropriate and acceptable destination. This was also proposed by countries from the African Elephant Coalition led by Kenya with the intention to widen the definition of ‘acceptable and appropriate destination’ where Zimbabwe and Botswana may export live elephants too. The intention is to stop all live elephant and rhinoceros sales to places outside Africa.
While the original proposal was rejected at plenary, the meeting then adopted the EU modified proposal of the definition of ‘appropriate and acceptable destination for imported live animals’. The wide definition will restrict international trade between producer countries and recipient countries outside the range where the species historically and naturally occurs. For example, Zimbabwe may export live elephants to the other African States but may not export the same to any definition outside Africa.
Essentially, this proposal clandestinely and in effect amended our Appendix II annotation and has closed all forms of live animal sales to areas outside Africa.
Zimbabwe together with SADC declared a dispute in accordance with Article 18 of the CITES Treaty but this was ignored as there was no precedent in the history of CITES. It was the first time this was done.
The first proposal is the review of the Convention and this was proposed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The main motivation of this proposal was to conduct a systematic review of the effectiveness and implementation of CITES, the last time such a review was done was in 1994. We feel that CITES is slowly departing from its founding ethos and aims. As such, there is a need for review. Despite a lot of resistance by many parties opposed to this proposal, there is still hope that this will be done as the CoP 18 adopted a decision directing the CITES Standing Committee to continue the discussion after the CoP.
The sixth proposal has to do with participatory mechanisms for rural communities and this was proposed by Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Namibia and Zimbabwe introduced this document at committee stage. The main objective of this proposal was to advocate for the establishment of a permanent Committee of Rural Communities of CITES. Currently, there are three committees (Standing Committee, Plants Committee and Animals Committee). We were then proposing a rural communities committee. The main motivation behind the proposal is the fact that rural communities play a significant role in the conservation of wildlife and they should be supported to speak directly to issues and decisions that affect them and their livelihoods. This proposal also faced a lot of resistance from the West together with North African countries. However, intercessional working groups were established and Zimbabwe will be actively participating.
I now move to the current challenges with conservation in Zimbabwe. Conservation is an expensive undertaking which requires financial resources from the Government. Currently, our Parks Authority is struggling to self-finance conservation. It is therefore unfortunate that those who are against our conservation model do not assist us in any way. I may add that Zimbabwe, together with Botswana has had the fastest-growing elephants in terms of numbers. Currently, our herd stands at close to 78 000 with a carrying capacity of 48 000 with a 30 000 over-population and it is stretching our resources. These challenges have been further worsened by the drought situation which we are experiencing in most of our parks. Due to the high numbers of elephants which outweigh the ecological carrying capacity of our parks, we are faced with an impending ecological disaster.
So far, at least 55 elephants carcasses have been discovered over the past two months. Further investigations and monitoring are in progress. Our investigations have shown that elephants are dying due to starvation. Our elephants are having to travel long distances in search of water and food. The biggest threat to the survival of our elephants is loss of habitat, poaching although it has gone down since mid-2017 as well as human-wildlife conflict. The situation in our parks is dire as we desperately wait for the rains. Our able management is doing everything possible to ensure that we provide water to our animals and also ensure that our communities are safe and are benefiting from the rich wildlife. Preliminary findings suggest that the cause of death was not anthrax or poisoning but starvation due to the drought.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to just highlight a few options available for Zimbabwe with regards to CITES, the first option being entering a reservation. There is an option of entering a reservation in accordance with article 13 of the convention. When a reservation is entered by a party on a particular species the implication is that that party will not be bound by the CITES regulations and subsequent resolutions of the convention on that particular species. This does not take away the parties membership to the convention in relation to all other listed species.
Option B is to denounce the CITES treaty. Article 24 of the treaty provides for any party to denounce the treaty by written notification to the depository Government at any time. The denunciation shall take effect 12 months after the depository Government has received the notification. This could be done together with other SADC countries. It would create the desired shock wave at that level. CITES would not be CITES without Southern African range states who amongst themselves hold over 83% of the world’s African elephant population.
Option C is to declare a dispute. Article 18 provides for a declaration of dispute between two or more CITES parties. This is a logical option which Zimbabwe and SADC can pursue especially considering that the CITES reneged on its promise to come up with a decision-making mechanism for trade in ivory after the expiry of the nine-year moratorium contained in the annotation.
Option E is for domestic interventions. The other option is to stay in CITES but ensure the strengthening of the domestic elephant ivory industry. However, to note on this option is that it might be a challenge considering the CITES also intends to close all domestic ivory trades.
As I conclude my statement Mr. Speaker Sir, this week SADC Ministers of Environment are meeting in Dar es Salaam to discuss on the way forward with regards to our approach in terms of elephant conservation and the outcome of that will inform our advice to our heads of States and Government and the way forward will be given from there. I thank you.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:Thank you very much Hon Minister. May I now give the Floor to Hon. Members who have got some questions, areas that you need further clarifications. It is over to you Hon. Members.
HON. CHINANVAVANA:Thank you, Hon. Speaker Sir for giving me the opportunity to seek some points on clarity. First of all, may I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his promptness to come back to this House with this that we asked for, the Ministerial Statement. Thank you so much. It has not been done before and you are one of those that are so prompt.
Anyway for points of clarity, Mr Speaker Sir, yes, from his introduction the Minister said that we asked if we are to exit CITES. It was an insinuation, Hon. Minister that we may consider as a nation or the CAZ region. Considering the challenges that you have highlighted that we may consider exiting CITES, but you have explained that intersection is coming up, it is on the way and how far have we gone with this lobbying? After all, has been said and done is selling of live elephants an option? I thank you.
HON. NDUNA:Mr Speaker Sir, I applaud the Minister for bringing in a Ministerial Statement and I also applaud the mover of that motion, the one that requested, Hon. Chinanzvavana. My point of clarity is on the issue of the continued preservation of our God-given natural resources, the animals, in particular, the CITES, the selling of our tusks and other additives is the tail end of the good preservation methods of our animals. Would it strike you as the right way to go and use drones to enhance the continued preservation of our animals? Aware that drones can carry a lot of payloads. In Rwanda, they carry medicinal issues and they transport them deep into the Gwasha or into the middle of nowhere. In Afghanistan, they are used by the Americans.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Nduna may you raise your point of clarification. No debate please. Go ahead.
HON. NDUNA:Thank you, Mr. Speaker, thank you for protecting me. In Afghanistan, they are used to carry a payload that is going to dissipate and annihilate what the Americans call insurgents. It is my fervent view and hopes that here we can use the drones to carry a payload that is going to make sure we detect poachers and nip them in the bud deep in the middle of nowhere after obviously regulating the usage of those drones.
Would it strike the Minister as the right way to go in terms of embracing technology to get what we want from what we have and to get out to the BBC era which is borne before computers and enhance and embrace the issue of collaboration, coordination and networking using these drones?
HON. PARADZA:Thank you, Mr. Speaker Sir. I want the Minister to clarify two issues. What are the consequences if we get out of CITES, are there any advantages to us right now? Secondly, what are we going to do with the stockpile of ivory we have? Are we going to continue keeping that ivory for how long and what is stopping us from selling it right now?
HON. CHIKWINYA:Thank you, Hon. Minister and allow me to thank the Hon. Minister as well. Hon. Minister in your response I did not get you clear on the quantity in terms of monetary value the damage that has been done due to overstocking of elephants to the extent that we as Parliamentarians must be persuaded to then inform a policy decision.
I say so, Hon. Speaker, on the basis that we are in a budget period and therefore I expect the Ministry responsible to have a certain amount of a vote that it motivates Parliaments for us to release so that at least they manage the overstocking of these animals, but without a clear picture of how much we are losing in terms of monetary value due to the human and animal conflict arising out of conflict as a consequence of the issue around CITES. I think Members of Parliament will make a submission in the dark if maybe you do not have that figure today. Can you take time to inform Parliament during the budget period how much we are suffering in terms of monetary value? Thank you.
HON. T. MOYO:Thank you, Mr. Speaker Sir. May I thank the Hon. Minister for the statement. I seek clarification on two points concerning option B and C. What are the likely socio-economic and political consequences for Zimbabwe if we embark on option (b) to denounce CITES Treaty and also the issues of the declaration if we declare a dispute. I want to share the issues of figures. In 1980, we had an elephant population of 20 thousand and now we have a population of slightly over 70 thousand. That is evidence on the ground to show that we are embarking on good conversation. So if we embark on those options and also the issue of 600 million worth of ivory as a stockpile, what are the consequences of Zimbabwe for embarking on options two and three? I thank you.
HON. CHOMBO:Thank you, Mr. Speaker Sir. I thank the Hon. Minister for presenting a well-informed Ministerial Statement. I want to seek clarification on the proposal by the rural community that was turned down, what were the reasons for doing that? Did we not get any support from the Southern countries? Did we lobby for that? Are there any areas that can be revisited?
HON. MPARIWA:Thank you, Hon. Speaker, let me also join the rest of the speakers in thanking the Minister in actually coming up to respond and perhaps also to take the message back to Cabinet to tell your colleagues to say we do not bite people when they come with the work that we will have requested and also to copy from you. You are a new Minister, we want to thank you and applaud you. I understand the number is around 70 to 80 thousand, is that the exact number of the elephants that we do have in the country so that when we do the budgeting of how many we want to dispose, we are sure in terms of accountability, how much are we getting as a nation in terms of the numbers?
THE ACTING MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (HON. M. NDLOVU):Thank you, Mr. Speaker Sir, I wish to deeply thank the Hon. Members for the interventions they have made. There have been quite a number of questions and I hope I managed to capture them all, if not I am available to further clarify. The first question related to selling of live elephants – whether it is still an option. This is an option in as far as we are selling our elephants in range states, meaning we are selling them inhabitants that are similar to where they are in Africa. This effectively means we are unable to sell our elephants because most buyers are outside Africa. In fact, maybe it might encourage our African brothers to buy elephants some of them have as little as 5 elephants in their countries. What it means is that from CITES we have up to 90 days to clear any sale of live elephants to ex-situ countries after which we will only be selling to in situ countries.
In terms of the lobbying, I am convinced that adequate lobbying had been done but there are always two strong sides to this argument. Those who are against the sale believe they have a good cause so they also lobbied as hard as we did. I think for the first time, almost the whole of SADC – which included Botswana for the first time, we were together in sustainable conversation. As you would know Botswana has the largest number which is about 128 thousand currently.
There was the question on the use of drones to assist in preservation for our animals. We received a donation of drones about 1 ½ month ago and we are currently working on the regulations on the usage of those drones but also the National Parks team is being trained on their usage so we expect that in a very short space of time, we will be able to make full use of the latest technologies. Thank you for that question.
The consequences of exiting CITES – this is part of what we will be discussing as SADC. What happens is that members of CITES are bound by the provisions of CITES so if we exit we have to be sure that we will have a counterpart who will take the same interest that we do. For instance, if it is to sell ivory, we cannot sell to a member of the CITES if the CITES regulations have restricted the selling of ivory. It is one decision that has to be carefully considered. We also believe that we are adding a lot of value in CITES, we have good stories to tell and countries have lessons to learn from us. You heard the numbers and I am told that in 1904 we had 4 thousand elephants and to have 78 thousand today, it means Zimbabwe is doing something good there so we also want to continue to teach the world on conversation methods particularly relating to elephants, giraffes and rhinos.
What are we going to do with our ivory stockpile – currently, the strategy or option is to continue to lobby until such a time when this is allowed. We have a resolution as SADC that we will not burn out stockpile and we are sticking to that. There was a question on quantifying the damage, particularly in monetary terms of the overstocking. I must admit I do not have this figure. It might be a bit difficult to quantify that. What I think might be easier, for now, is to quantify what is needed to sustain the overpopulation not necessarily the damage caused by overpopulation. So I will ask my team to work on this and hopefully, by the time we get to Victoria Falls, we will be having that quantified. We will still see if it is possible to quantify the damage. The damage includes loss of life which is very difficult to quantify in monetary terms.
There was a question on the implications mostly political – these are provided for in the CITES charter and it means it is possible to go through that. When you declare a dispute what you simply are saying is that on a particular issue, you would want to further deliberate or discuss with a specific counterpart until you reach an agreement. So it is simply seeking more time maybe you take out the issue of the agenda and you discuss it further until you reach an agreement.
The reasons for turning down the rural committee – parts of the arguments we made during CITES was that we need to introduce scientific considerations in some of the decisions that are taken during CITES because almost all decisions are made by way of vote. We believe we are not always well informed when we make voting decisions. So this was simply taken to a vote and we know that that the last time Zimbabwe was allowed to trade was when we hosted CITES and communities were allowed to come in…
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): Hon. Minister, please address the Chair.
Minister NDLOVU:I am sorry Mr. Speaker Sir. The communities were allowed to come and share their stories, real-life interactions with the wild animals and the conservation was able to grand the trade. So they feared that if communities are given this chance, people will see the real impact of a human-wildlife conflict that is taking place.
In terms of the exact number, if I am not mistaken, I stand to be corrected on this one. The last census or counting was done in 2016, it is done every 3 or 4 years but I will have to confirm that. So we are using those estimates up to now. We strongly believe that the numbers might be slightly higher than that. There is also migration, they migrate from areas where they feel unsafe, it is difficult to have a consistent number, it is almost always it is difficult to have a consistent number. It is almost always an estimate. Mr Speaker Sir, I have tried to respond to all the areas that needed further clarification, if any I stand ready. Thank you.