Pro-ivory countries should quit Cites

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
A few days ago Zimbabwe tried for the umpteenth time to convince  Cites to allow trade in registered raw ivory under a controlled and sustainable model, but failed. Well, it may be the last petition from the country under the Convention on such matters really, which by some measure it should be.

So the decision followed within hours of the rejection that Zimbabwe may leave the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (Cites). President Mnangagwa dropped the bombshell. The decision isn’t cast in stone yet, but it is not something that came as a total surprise.

With a puppet block of countries from eastern and western Africa, backed by wealthy pseudo-animal rights groups from the West, the Geneva leg of the biennial Cites conference, which ended after two weeks on August 28, looked to be always gravitating towards a complete ban on commercial ivory trade.

And so it did. Governments overwhelmingly turned down proposals by a group of range states within SADC to reopen global trade in ivory, even for a one-time sale to Cites-approved countries. In the alternative, a band of 32 puppet African nations calling itself the African Elephant Coaltion pressed, with some success, to permanently end any trade in ivory, and in live elephants outside their natural habitats.

This eventuality had been building up for decades, since 1989, when all populations of the African elephant were listed as an endangered species under a Cites categorisation called Appendix I, effectively ending international trade in ivory.

The protection was relaxed between 1997 and 2000 when populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were down-listed to Appendix II, a less endangered status, to allow two once-off sales of ivory stockpiles to Japan and China in 1999 and 2008.

That was the last time any ivory was ever traded under Cites, even though illegal, underground markets continue to flourish. Now the message is sinking home to those countries within SADC who had hoped that Cites will see reason for reopening global commercial ivory markets. The reality is that, save for some miracle, this may never happen.

Hence, the sharp reaction from not only Zimbabwe, but also Namibia, threatening to quit the Convention they accuse of evolving into a monopoly institution, pandering to the whims of Western interests and manipulation, at the expense of genuine wildlife issues. It is not an outrageous threat from the two neighbouring countries. It has happened before, very recently as a matter of fact. After more than 30 years of lobbying, and failing, Japan eventually withdrew from the International Whaling Commission effective July 2019, allowing the nation of many islands to resume whale hunting.

Japan argues hunting and eating whales are part of its culture. Likewise, Zimbabwe argues ivory trade is a key source of revenue for elephant conservation as well as general community upkeep. Japan has now granted permits to catch 227 minke, Bryde’s and sei whales this year in Japanese waters, its first commercial hunt since 1986.

When Zimbabwe eventually leaves Cites, if it chooses to so do, which it should, it will no longer be subject to the rules of the Convention, just as much as Japan is no longer bound by the International Whaling Commission rules.

Any attempts at withdrawal by Zimbabwe, and indeed Namibia, should not be considered an act of rebellion against global legally-binding treaties, but simply one of national preservation against an incapable, manipulative institution.

It is clear all channels to effect change from within Cites have been followed, and failed. Attention-seeking stunts such as burning the stockpiled tusks, as did Kenya a few years ago, don’t look like they are an option.

There’s no doubt there are countries who will be willing to trade in ivory outside Cites under clearly defined rules of accountability, governance and transparency, which do not fuel illegal killings of the African elephant.

God is faithful.

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