Botswana Pushes For Free Trade In Ivory Despite Threats To Leave CITES

Botswana Pushes For Free Trade In Ivory Despite Threats To Leave CITES

By Keletso Thobega

Botswana should be allowed to trade in ivory because there is already a thriving black market for ivory, Government says. 

Following threats to leave CITES, the country wants free trade in ivory. A few months after the CITES conference, Botswana is still pushing to influence the global community to support its stance on ivory trade, the president of the country, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has said.  

His sentiments were reiterated by Director of Wildlife and National Parks and Wildlife management, Kabelo Senyatso, who insists that there is a market for ivory stockpiles as well as a lucrative market for it, only if it is carried out within the confines of the law. 

The instrument that makes it illegal is what thwarts sale efforts according to Senyatso, putting Botswana in a predicament as they have nothing to do with the ivory as the country lacks the acumen, expertise and skills to utilize it. Regulated legal claimed would greatly benefit the government coffers. 

“The proceeds from these sales would contribute to funding initiatives aimed at improving the livelihoods of the people of Botswana, and to protecting the wildlife that we have now,” Senyatso said.

Last year on 23 May at the inaugural Elephant summit, Botswana made a strong case at an international conference held in Zimbabwe’s National Park in support of developing policy formulated to ensure that Southern Africa countries are allowed to carry out legal trade of ivory. The most important aspect of the conference was the deliberations geared at lobbying for support from the international community to allow for sale of ivory for economic benefit to countries and to also reduce ivory stockpiles that are piling up. The conference was attended by 16 countries, as well as China and Japan. 

Just like Zimbabwe, Botswana has threatened to quit CITES if the law that disallows legal ivory sales is not lifted. Masisi has attempted to lobby other southern African countries to follow suit and leave CITES if the ivory sales ban is not lifted this year. 

At the conference, opposition came from East and West Africa countries who are part of the Africa Elephant Coalition. In a joint statement they noted that they “maintain that opening the legal trade of ivory would encourage and increase poaching.”

Landlocked Botswana is home to the highest elephant population in the world, approximately 130,000 elephants, according to records of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Both Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to 50 percent of the world’s elephant population. 

Botswana set up the Conservation Trust Fund, which they hope would also benefit from proceeds from the legal ivory sales. Senyatso pointed out that the Conservation Trust Fund was established to benefit communities in elephant range areas by offering grants of up to one million Pula (74,000 US dollars) directed at initiatives that bolster their livelihood, and to secondly, support initiatives geared at the conservation of elephants. The Conservation Trust Fund was established from proceeds of the 1999 once-off ivory sale. 

The Minister of Environment and Conservation and Natural Resources, Philda Kereng, has indicated that contrary to widespread assumption, Botswana is still committed to fighting poaching. “Botswana’s National Anti-Poaching strategy seeks to reduce illegal offtake of wildlife by enhancing interagency cooperation through capacitation, the use of best available technologies, information sharing and the involvement of communities in law enforcement efforts,” Kereng said. The Controlled hunting programme is an important mechanism for safeguarding and generating revenue from marginalised lands set aside for conservation, and in land units where human-wildlife conflict is high. 

Economic modeling conducted in 2018 on Botswana’s controlled hunting programme demonstrated that the estimated total economic value of Botswana’s controlled hunting programme is 40 million USD.

But the country has put itself at the controversial end of the conservation spectrum on account of its stance. 

Prior to the National Elephant Summit last year, a statement from 50 wildlife and animal rights organization, argued that the opening trade of ivory would encourage poaching, and perpetuates the notion of tusk wildlife being commodities. This, they said, would be a drawback, considering the strides that Botswana has made in combating poaching. 

The global agency’s efforts to protect wildlife and the natural ecosystems of flora and fauna come way back. It was in 1989 when CITES banned trade of ivory in efforts to curb poaching and improve conservation efforts, and the body has indicated that it has no plans of lifting the ban in continued efforts to protect wildlife biodiversity.

Source: Published without changes from Zenger News

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