…Namibia lobbies extensively to avoid ivory trade ban
In less than three months’ time, several nations will convene in South Africa to decide whether to indefinitely ban ivory trade or not. One of the proposals seeks to unify all African elephant populations and their range states under one listing, Appendix I, to provide maximum protection to elephants. Trade in spe- cies listed in Appendix I is prohibited. Currently, there is split-listing with Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe listed under Appendix II, a less endangered status that allows for controlled trade of the listed species while African Elephant Coalition states are listed under Appendix I.
Environment and Tourism Min- ister Pohamba Shifeta last night told this publication that Namibia is lob- bying extensively together with other states listed under Appendix II to avoid the abolishment of split-listing. With the EU member states cur- rently discussing their position on whether to ban ivory trade, a del- egation of the African Elephant Coalition, representing 29 African countries, is urgently calling on the European Union and the European Commission to follow through on their commitment to ban ivory trade. Shifeta said Namibia and South Africa made a joint counter proposal to oppose any plans aimed at ending the split-listing regime. “Some of these countries that are supporting the African Elephant Coalition do not even have elephants, so they do not know what it means and how costly it is to manage ivory,” said Shifeta, adding that Namibian taxpayers fork out over N$10 million annually to cater for the management of the ivory stockpiles.
He feels that countries should be allowed to sell ivory provided they meet the requirements and that they do not contravene any laws. Shifeta knows that the September meeting will not be a walk in the park, and according to him, “we are busy with serious lobbying”. “We lobbied with the European Parliament and our position was well taken that the sale of ivory and our decision to permit trophy hunting is solely for management and conservation purposes,” he said. The Environment News Service says in its latest report that in 25 years there may not be a single elephant remaining in Africa if current rates of killing continue. Elephants are experiencing cat astrophic declines from poaching. From 2010 to 2012, at least 100 000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory, most of them in AEC countries. “The situation is alarming in most of our countries,” says Azizou El Hadj Issa, former Minister of Ag- riculture in Benin and President of the Council of Elders of the African Elephant Coalition.
“Elephants are slaughtered every day, rangers are being killed and the trade is fuelling terrorism which de- stabilises the continent and has huge repercussions for EU security,” he warned. “We need the EU to support us and become part of the solution to this crisis. We, the Africans, have that solution and we call on the EU and its member states to throw their support behind our proposals.” In Brussels last week, a delegation of the African Elephant Coalition met with several high level officials of the European Commission and of EU member states to seek support for their five-part package to put an end to ivory trade and afford elephants the highest protection under inter- national law.
The African Elephant Coalition (AEC) is calling on the EU to extend its commitment towards implement- ing the African Elephant Action Plan, adopted by all African elephant range states in 2010, by supporting the listing of all African elephants in Appendix I under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), as a way to enhance the unity of African nations with respect to elephants and elephant conservation. CITES came into force in 1975, and accords varying degrees of protec- tion and regulation of international trade to more than 35 000 species of animals and plants. Currently, 182 countries are party to the convention. The 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from September 24 to October 5. The Af- rican Elephant Coalition’s package consists of five proposals to (CoP17).
The proposal recommends that CITES parties should end negotia- tions on the decision-making mecha- nism (DMM). In view of the concert- ed global efforts to reduce demand for ivory, the existence of negotiations on a DMM process to legalise trade sends precisely the wrong message – that a legal and sustainable ivory trade is possible, and could reopen in the not-too-distant future. The proposal aims to end the export of African elephants outside their natural range, including export to zoos and other captive facilities overseas. Such exports provide no direct benefit to conservation of elephants in their range states, a fact noted by the IUCN-SSC African Ele- phant Specialist Group, and there are considerable objections within Africa on ethical and cultural grounds. Afri- can elephants, along with their ivory, should remain in Africa.
The African Elephant Coalition praised the European Union for adopting the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and for urging the 28 EU member states not to is- sue export or re-export documents for raw ivory from elephants on the basis of EU guidelines. The African Elephant Coalition was established in 2008 in Bamako, Mali. It includes 29 member African countries united by a common goal: “a viable and healthy elephant population free of threats from international ivory trade”. The AEC held its seventh meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, from June 24-26. The 29 member countries of the African Elephant Coalition are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Repub- lic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Ni- geria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda. Of the 29 countries represented in AEC, 26 are African elephant range states making up the majority of the 37 countries in which African ele- phants occur in the wild.