Samuel Kadungure in Kasane, Botswana
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday implored the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) nations to stick to their collective position on sustainable elephant conservation management and reject machinations by powerful nations to impose a ban on legal ivory trade as this disregards spirited efforts and investments by the affected nations.
President Mnangagwa said this while addressing delegates at the Kasane Elephant Summit 2019 in Botswana, where two other African leaders spoke strongly about the need for Southern African nations to benefit from their natural resource.
The summit, which ended yesterday, was held under the theme: “Towards a Common Vision for the Management of Southern Africa’s Elephants”.
The President said Zimbabwe will in June host the inaugural AU/UN Wildlife Summit which presents KAZA nations an opportunity to share views on unlocking value from wildlife.
“As we approach CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna and flora), let us therefore, resolutely affirm our collective position on sustainable elephant conservation management. Let us boldly speak with one voice, in the best interests of our communities. The ‘one size fits all’ banning of everything under CITES, disregarding the good efforts and investments by our respective Governments is neither sustainable nor desirable,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Elephants are arguably a symbol of success in conservation strategies in our region and a key draw card to our tourism industry. It is most opportune that we are meeting to reflect on this important species as well as recalibrate our strategies to ensure that appropriate benefits accrue to our nations and respective communities.
“The savanna elephants which are predominantly found in southern Africa constitute approximately 50 percent of the continent’s elephant species. This bears testimony to our region’s success in championing sustainable conservation programmes that are expanding the elephant habitat,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said it is equally imperative that the global community considers the voices and concerns of countries that are successfully conserving these species. Poverty eradication, economic empowerment and the improvement in the quality of life of rural communities can only be enhanced if countries are allowed to trade and benefit from natural resources.
“We will continue to honour our obligations and play our part in strengthening collaboration within the KAZA framework, our National Elephant Management Plan and the African Elephant Action Plan. To this end, 13 percent of our land area is protected under the Transfrontier Conservation Area and Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE), which we are set to invigorate to reduce human-elephant conflict. My Government has since increased the area where wildlife conservation is recognised as a viable land use,” said President Mnangagwa.
The summit was attended by President Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), President Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and President Hage Geingob (Namibia). President Juao Lourenco (Angola) was represented by the country’s Minister of Tourism.
Botswana has the highest elephant population in Africa followed by Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Angola.
The KAZA range measures about 520 000 square kilometres and hosts three quarters of the 415 428 elephants found in Africa.
The summit raised concern about the upsurge in elephant poaching in Africa, with an analysis report by the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) revealing that Africa experienced the highest levels of elephant poaching in 2011.
Ivory laundering peaked between 2012 and 2013, and though there are signs of decline.
It was noted that despite pressure on poaching, African elephants continue to live outside protected areas, posing additional challenges for wildlife authorities, as levels of human-wildlife conflict continue to escalate.
A moratorium on international trade that was put in place between 2009 and 2017 has failed to tame illegal ivory trade, as the vice actually increased during the period.
Ivory stocks held by KAZA range states have continued to grow and efforts by these countries to manage their populations are subjected to biased international media scrutiny that ignores the plight of rural communities who bear the brunt of living with elephants.
“Addressing human-wildlife conflict continues to be a priority of my Government. We are continuously strengthening the law enforcement to combat internal and cross-border wildlife crime. My Government stands ready to increase its participation in regional anti-poaching strategies. I encourage all of us to continue to implement robust and versatile mechanisms in our elephant conservation toolbox,” said President Mnangagwa.
It was noted that legal international trade in live elephants and their products is increasingly prohibitive despite Appendix Two listing permitting commercial elephant trade.
More worryingly, plans are underway to make it more difficult to import hunting trophies into the European Union and the US.