Nam to protest CITES on elephant, giraffe and rhino trade

By Emmanuel Koro

BOTSWANA, Namibia and Zimbabwe will be submitting protest documents that will allow them to legally trade in elephants, rhinos and giraffes. The three countries are declaring themselves independent of the controls exercised by the Geneva-based UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

They are joined in their protest by another five unnamed SADC countries whose proposals to trade in live wildlife and wildlife products were also rejected at the tri-annual CITES meeting in August.

These positions, known as “reservations”, will be made known to CITES by 26 November and signify acceptance of the Final Draft Report released at the SADC meeting of Ministers of the Environment on 25 October. The SADC countries’ move is also in protest to the first-ever listing of “Threatened” in regards to the thriving giraffe populations of Southern Africa.

According to various articles of the Convention, a reservation over a particular species means that Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and others, would no longer have to adhere to CITES rules with respect to that particular species. They would no longer be restricted from trading in the species and their products with other countries that also claim the same reservation, or non-members of the Convention.

“We agreed as a region that we will all deposit reservations on our three major species which is the giraffe, the elephant and the white rhino,” said Zimbabwe’s Acting Minister of Environment Nqobizita Mangaliso Ndlovu. “We want to believe that this is the starting point for us as a block to register serious displeasure in the way we are being treated. I think we will be heard. It is a very bold political statement that we have taken.”

“Botswana communities would like to welcome the protest documents to UN CITES by SADC countries,” said Siyoka Simasiku, executive director for Ngamiland Council of NGOs. “The SADC decision will ensure that Community-Based Natural Resource Management programme in Botswana yield meaningful tourism benefits to communities not only through hunting but through other development projects.”

Charles Jonga, director of the Zimbabwe Campfire Programme that promotes conservation and development in rural areas through wise use of wildlife and natural resources, said SADC countries had taken a bold step in listening to the voices of their local communities.

Botswana would take reservations on the giraffe and elephant. Asked if his country would make a reservations submission to CITES by 26 November 2019, Namibia’s Minister of Environment Pohamba Shifeta said, “Yes, we will do the same.”

At CITES COP18, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe submitted a joint proposal to trade in their thousands of tons of stockpiled elephant ivory, but were defeated by 81% no-votes, with only 19% supporting their proposal.

Zambia also lost heavily in its amended bid to have its elephant population downlisted from CITES Appendix I to II for only non-commercial hunting trophies and hides, and leather from elephants killed in elephant-human conflict, without trade in raw ivory. That proposal was not accepted (82% to 18%). Eswatini (Swaziland) lost its bid to trade in its stockpiled white rhino horn.

Observers and CITES CoP18 said the heavy losses collectively suffered by SADC countries were suspicious and would forever be contested. They dismissed the UN CITES voting process as “tainted, rigged and not free and fair”.

Recently, western animal rights groups allegedly rigged CITES votes through, among other things, paying inducement money to East and West African representatives of the African Elephant Coalition countries. The coalition was formed and funded by western animal rights groups.

Delegates from East Africa and West African countries were allegedly seen at CITES COP18 in numerous and suspicious compromising meetings with western animal rights groups. They were coached on what to say in television interviews.

Then after the SADC ivory trade proposal was defeated, the very same delegates were seen celebrating with western nationals. Evidence of WhatsApp strategic communications between western delegates and government officials from East Africa is available.

“SADC countries should throw the CITES COP18 resolutions out because of the overbearing approach of the west to African wildlife management and use, no matter the niceties of the Treaty (CITES),” said Harris. At the final plenary session of the CITES meeting, he asked: “What gives you in the west the right to repeat the colonial mistakes of the 19th century? How dare you dictate to Africa or other former colonial areas how they should manage their natural resources?”

“We fought for political independence and we now have it,” said SADC Tanzanian director of wildlife, Dr Maurus Msuha. “The next fight for us is the fight for the right to use our resources for the development of our own people. This needs political pressure from our governments who should say that we don’t need this [being denied our sovereign rights to trade in our wildlife products] anymore.”

President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe also announced his country’s radical protest plan against CITES in response to its decision. This triggered excitement at CITES CoP18 among the pro-sustainable use delegates, who view CITES as having continued to punish SADC countries by denying them their sovereign right to benefit from their wildlife.

“That’s the way to go [reservations and pull-out],” said Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Shifeta. “We are not happy with CITES CoP18 and also not happy with CoP17. We have other partners who can help us to support our conservation by trading with us. We don’t want donations. We need and want trade. We are being punished at every CITES.”