Parks and Wildlife Management of Zimbabwe (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo, says while the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been blocking Zimbabwe from sustainably reducing its elephants, the herd will eventually die from loss of habitat.
CITES which came into force in 1975, is an international agreement between governments, which is aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
However, CITES has of late been accused of being hijacked by animal rights groups that are said to have twisted its mandate and objectives of ensuring sustainable trade.
Instead of managing the trade in endangered species such as elephants, CITES has literary banned the trade, thereby drawing accusations from various countries especially those in Africa that have elephants.
On top of restricting trade in live elephants, CITES is also refusing to give Zimbabwe permission to dispose its huge stockpiles of ivory and rhino horns.
The stockpiles are said to be valued at over US$500 million, which can go a long way in enhancing conservation efforts in the country.
In an interview on OpenParly Tuesday-Talk, Farawo said the huge number of elephants was destroying the habitat which could eventually put their survival in danger.
He said the destruction being caused by the elephants especially the knocking down of trees was also affecting breeding cycles of other animals such as birds.
“One of the biggest threats to the survival of our elephants is loss of habitat, loss of habitat in terms of vegetation, in terms of food, in terms of water, and that is going to be the single biggest threat to the survival of our wildlife.
“So, the more we keep the number the more vegetation is destroyed and not mentioning issues of climate change, we have had a lot of droughts over the years this will affect our management or how we manage wildlife,” he said.
Farawo added, ‘’Unfortunately, most of the decisions that people make about our wildlife, most of them have never seen an elephant in their life, they do not how it looks, they only see it on National Geographic or something.
‘’They make those decision remotely from some air-conditioned office somewhere, but we have always been saying people must come, they see the situation on the ground and then they make those decisions.’’
According to Zimparks, keeping huge numbers of elephants is not sustainable considering the conditions of the parks in the country which are in dry areas that do not have natural streams of water and must rely on borehole water.
‘’If go to Hwange (National Park) today you look at the amount of destruction, the destruction of trees, and all other things and you know for sure that most of our parks are in Region 5 where the conditions are harsh, there is no rainfall and there is nothing.
‘’Hwange alone for example its run on 100% borehole water, there is no perennial river in that park it is made of Kalahari Sands, its Region 5, the temperature are high and those things need to be maintained.
‘’This is why we are talking of maximum ecological carrying capacity, that is why we talk of habitat loss where the vegetation is destroyed and this will definitely affect the population of our elephants and in fact, these elephants are slowly becoming a danger to themselves because they are destroying their own habitat they are destroying other animals habitats and not mentioning these elephants moving long distances in search of water, in search of food and at the end of the day encroaching into communities killing people, destroying peoples livelihood.
‘’We have always tried to explain these things but the issue either is treated politically or emotionally. People at times don’t want to be realistic to be real with what is happening, the fact of the matter is elephants are overpopulated, the elephants are destroying their own habitat, the elephants are causing a lot of problems not only in protected areas,’’ he said