Elephants in Zimbabwe and much of Southern Africa live in their natural habitat making it difficult if not impossible to control their reproduction activities because Africa has no condoms for elephants.
And even if they were to be there our elephants especially in Zimbabwe have no money to buy the condoms because the Conventions for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has prevented them from looking after themselves.
Zimbabwe has about 88 000 elephants against a carrying capacity of about 55 000 meaning we have about 33 000 excess elephants and these elephants continue to reproduce since they have no birth control mechanisms.
These 33 000 excess elephants need space and they need food and they also need water, but because parks cannot hold these excess numbers, elephants often end up looking for greener pastures in surrounding communities where they end up eating and destroying crops thereby leading to conflict with villagers.
Angry villagers in a bid to save their crops often confront these beasts and they end up getting killed or they resort to poisoning the elephants and both Zimbabwe and the world including animal-lovers end up losing.
But this situation can easily be solved by allowing Zimbabwe to get rid of the excess elephants through trophy hunting and even by controlled selling of these elephants to countries that do not have as compared to having them being killed or killing villagers.
These excess elephants also require that there be more game rangers to respond to situations where they encroach into villagers’ fields and also to prevent them from being killed by poachers, that exercise alone requires huge sums of money and equipment.
However, due to the economic situation in Zimbabwe and most of the countries in Southern Africa, there is normally no money to do that because the thinking is that those animals must be used in generating money that can be ploughed back into their conservation.
We are having a situation where poachers have better equipment and vehicles as compared to that of game rangers which then compromises conservation work.
We have CITES which came into force on 1 July 1975 and is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival but over time the organisation appears to have diverted from its founding principles.
CITES now even ban trade which does not threaten the survival of animals, they actually ban trade which promotes the survival of the animals especially in the case of elephants in Zimbabwe.
It is common knowledge that elephants are big animals and you cannot hold a certain number of them in a certain size of the land but CITES has disregarded that.
According to some commentators, CITES has no money of its own and hence relies on donations from well-wishers (animal-lovers) and member states.
At times these donations come with conditions and because CITES needs the money they have no choice but to comply.
And other countries like Kenya have also been put in a corner by these animal-lovers which resulted in them burning their stockpiles of ivory and rhino horns which could have been sold and generate money for conservation purposes.
Zimbabwe is also under pressure to burn its stockpile believed to be worth about US$600 million and it must be commended for refusing to buckle-to pressure.
CITES must go back to its original form and allow sustainable trade to take place, in fact, countries in Southern Africa, especially those in KAZA (Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Areas KAZA-TFCA) need to take a leading a role in freeing CITES.
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), KAZA TFCA (a region in Southern Africa where borders of five countries Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe meet) which was established in 2011 houses about 44% of Africa’s total elephants and the herd keeps growing.
They, therefore, need to take a tough stance, I mean they are the ones with elephants and if they all decide to withdraw CITES will just become a workshop of aspirations and day-dreaming.
Gone should be the days where the have-not controls the haves, Africa has the animals hence it must control and give direction to CITES and not the other way around.
While CITES has become a colony of the super-rich nations and also of animal-lovers they have forgotten that most national parks in Africa especially those in Zimbabwe and the KAZA area are struggling to effectively manage their wildlife due to lack of adequate funding, a situation which can be overturned by allowing them to auction their stockpiles.
For example, Zimbabwe lost more than 200 elephants towards the end of 2019 due to drought and the parks cannot drill boreholes due to lack of funds and yet there is a stockpile of ivory worth US$600 million which CITES has blocked from being sold.
If Zimbabwe had been allowed to sell the ivory surely those 200 elephants and other animals would have been survived but CITES thought it is better to protect ivory of dead animals rather than protect the living which are dying of hunger and thirst in Hwange, Mana Pools and other parks.
It must, however, be known that even if CITES ban the trade in elephants and its products, Elephants herds in Africa will keep growing because they have no condoms to stop reproduction.-