Countries like Zimbabwe with huge stockpiles of ivory should be allowed to use their resources as they please and not suffer because of their good conservation practices, Mr David H Barron, the chairman of International Conservation Caucus Foundation said yesterday.
Speaking after meeting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava on the sidelines of the US-Africa summit, Mr Barron, whose organisation advances conservation governance by building political will and providing on-the-ground solutions, said it is ironic that Western countries that failed to conserve their fauna would like to dictate terms to countries like Zimbabwe that are now overburdened by huge stocks of ivory.
“If there were a market for the stockpiles of ivory one might make the argument that those reserves could be sold and put into conservation. But the political reality is that the members of societies controlling key organisations are overpowering against the idea, leaving other countries overburdened.
“There are countries that would like to tell Zimbabweans what to with their ivory, but are not willing to help them. Africans should decide how to manage their resources in order to sustain their animal populations and to feed their people, not to be dictated by people from Queens (a New York borough) or London,” he said.
Zimbabwe has huge stockpiles of ivory worth millions of dollars, but due to the stance of CITES, the country cannot sell the ivory to fund the management of the ever ballooning population of elephants.
At the same time they are proposals in some Western countries to ban trophy hunting, further crippling the country’s ability to manage its fauna.
Minister Shava, on his part, said Zimbabwe and other African states should be able to manage animals in their own way.
“In our case in the context of elephants our capacity in the ecosystem in Zimbabwe is 45 000 but we have a total of 85 000 and we are only talking of one species. We could be extrapolating this discussion to many more species and we get concerned when CITES tries to manage or micromanage what we have in Zimbabwe.
“We are saying to those enthusiasts that if its a question of encouraging us to burn the stocks of ivory and other items, why don’t they buy them from us and burn themselves and not ask us to burn our wealth,” said Minister Shava.
Zimbabwe would continue to cooperate and collaborate with progressive organisations on finding means to offload their stockpiles.
“Like you heard there are countries that are now advocating that trophies should not be exported as trophies we want to tell these countries that we want to reduce animal population to trophies and sell them,” he said.
Today the minister will hold meetings with US officials and also have side meetings with other world leaders.