Zimbabwe has been given the green light to continue trading in processed ivory after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species CITES rejected Kenyaâ€™s proposal to extend the ban in the trade for 20 years.
The debate over the trade in ivory at the CITES Convention has focused on the benefits of getting income from ivory sales so that it can be used for conservation.
Some countries especially those which have decimated their elephant populations led by Kenya and some Western countries who contend that trade in ivory encourages poaching. But countries which have large numbers of elephants say trade in ivory will help in conserving the environment since these large mammals can be very destructive on the environment.Â
The Kenya-led group was also advocating for the removal of a paragraph in the CITES Appendices which allows trade in individually marked and certified ivory carvings incorporated in finished jewellery for non-commercial purposes for Namibia and ivory carvings for non-commercial purposes for Zimbabwe. The ban in ivory products which have been in force for 9 years ends this year but Kenya wanted it to be extended by another 11.
Zimbabwe has more than 100 000 elephants and over 26 tonnes of ivory within its stock. In 1997, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabweâ€™s elephants were transferred from Appendix 1 to II while South Africaâ€™s elephants were transferred in 2000.
At the CITES meeting currently underway in Doha, Qatar, Zimbabwe presented its conservation programmes and the problems of a large elephant population while outlining the benefits which can be accrued to communities which co-exist with the animals. Kenyaâ€™s proposal was rejected.
But why has Kenya been at the forefront of these campaigns. It is alleged that Kenya is receiving a grant of more than 250 million US dollars every year from animal lovers and each time there is a convention they are instructed to make a proposal against Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries. The argument behind the proposal being that the sale of ivory will promote continuous poaching that will benefit only a few.
On the other hand it is believed that the proposal by Kenya is political as the country might be used as a front by some western countries who would like to close all channels of economic development that brings foreign currency to Zimbabwe.Â
In 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2008, CITES permitted Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to sell some stocks of ivory to Japan, totaling over 150 tonnes. The decision was made in recognition of the fact that some southern African elephant populations are healthy and well managed.
At this year’s conference, Tanzania and Zambia were also seeking similar approval to sell government-owned stocks of ivory that have accumulated over the years although the decision was rejected by the CITES.
Tanzania has nearly 90 tonnes of such stock, and Zambia has just over 21 tonnes.