Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Council for Tourism has blamed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ ban on trade in ivory for massive elephant poaching. ZCT vice president Mr Francis Ngwenya in an interview last week said that Cites’ ban on trade in ivory has spawned a thriving black market for elephant tusks, which fetch high prices. The ZCT is the domestic tourism industry’s foremost private sector lobby group.
Mr Ngwenya said since Zimbabwe was not allowed to freely sell its ivory stockpile, buyers have formed criminal cartels dealing in ivory to buy and sell ivory on the black market.
His comments come in the wake of the deaths of elephants in Hwange National Park due to cyanide poisoning by poachers which has also killed many other animals in the game park.
“The increase in poaching in Hwange is a result of the Cites ban on ivory, which has resulted in Mafia style criminal activities as the ivory can only be traded on the black market,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority, the country has over 100 000 elephants against a capacity of 45 000, mostly in Hwange National Park.
Zimbabwe cannot cull the elephants or sell the ivory without permission from Cites. It also does not have the permit to sell the current ivory stocks, valued at more than US$13 million.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is a binding international agreement between governments. The aim of the agreement aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Cites works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected protected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of the endangered species covered by Cites has to be authorised through a special licensing system. Permission to trade in protected specimen is given in exceptional circumstance upon request by a member, which Zimbabwe has not been able to get as and when deservedly required.
Already, Zimbabwe has an ivory stockpile estimated at over 50 tonnes yet the country struggles for financial resources to ensure sustainable management of its ecological system.
Mr Ngwenya said those in the private sector believe solutions to reducing poaching include Campfire projects and resourcing wildlife authorities.
He said communities would strongly protect wildlife resources and take ownership of the same if they derive significant benefits while resources would better equip authorities in their work.
Mr Ngwenya said the ZCT on its part would in December meet to discuss establishment of a fund that will go towards assisting authorities with resources for protection of the precious wildlife.
Wanton destruction of the wildlife and the environment by poachers could in the future rob Zimbabwe of its wildlife endowments, a key element of tourism-led economic growth.
This was the first poaching disaster of its kind in Zimbabwe, which has forced the Government to rethink and come up with new solutions to combat rampant poaching activities.
Combating wanton destruction of wildlife is central to ensuring tourism remains a significant part of the four main pillars of the economy that include manufacturing, agriculture and mining.