Fw: [africam-wlc] Zimbabwe: Ivory Trade - Give New Deal a Chance
- ----- Original Message -----From: wildlifecampusSent: Friday, June 22, 2007 2:58 PMSubject: [africam-wlc] Zimbabwe: Ivory Trade - Give New Deal a Chance
The Herald (Harare)
RATIONALITY is starting to enter the environmental debate on the
African elephant, largely because African countries were allowed to
work out a common position at the recent Cites meeting.
By restricting the debate to Africans, the "bunny-huggers" of Europe
and North America lost their influence. Having shot out or removed to
little parks their own most dangerous animals, these "bunny-huggers"
have developed a most peculiar idea of wildlife, especially for
It is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that they see
African people as a nuisance. If the entire African population
vanished, except for a few people living in huts to provide
picturesque photographs, plus of course a few more to cook and clean
for tourists, they would probably be a lot happier.
African countries were likely to be more sensible and Zimbabwe's
Minister of Environment and Tourism Cde Francis Nhema found it was
possible to reach a compromise between countries hammered by poaching
and countries that must cull elephants or see massive environmental
Led by Kenya, there is a group of African countries whose elephants
are at such a high risk from poaching that they wanted a total ban on
all trade in ivory.
We sympathise. But we believe that such a ban would be impossible to
enforce and could lead to even more illegal trade. The demand for
ivory is so high that a total ban is just likely to drive up prices
of poached ivory. We have seen this with rhino horn.
The other group of African countries, mainly in Southern Africa, have
managed to contain poaching and are faced with rapidly rising
elephant populations. Unless something is done to reduce numbers
there could be serious environmental collapse, as has happened in
large areas in the past.
Ecologists know that elephants have only one natural predator -- man -
- and that they have evolved a breeding cycle over the last few
million years to cope with the successive predation of Homo Habilis,
Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens.
So regardless of whether there is a ban on ivory trade, Southern
Africans are going to have to hunt elephant.
The Southern Africans argue further that communities that live with
or near elephants, and bear the brunt of danger and seeing their
crops destroyed, have a right to benefit from whatever controlled
hunting is permitted.
And there is a general belief that people who benefit from a resource
are likely to go to great lengths to protect that resource and
prevent others from stealing it.
Feeding a market with legal ivory, coupled with intense action
against poaching, should in time make poaching very uneconomic with
the risks outweighing the benefits.
Most African environment ministries agree with these arguments;
furthermore the Southern Africans appreciate the special problems
other African countries face. So sensible discussion was always
likely to lead to a deal.
The most important part of the deal is not so much the agreement that
Southern Africans can make a one-off sale of raw ivory and can
continue to allow trophy hunting.
Of greater importance for the future is the agreement to set up an
African Elephant Fund to ensure that any African state can set up and
manage internal ivory control systems where these are not in place.
Once every elephant tusk leaving Africa can be accounted for, it will
be very easy to see if ivory appearing on the world market is legal
This, coupled with a regular supply of legal ivory to satisfy genuine
and legitimate buyers, should kill poaching.
A similar system is now working out well for another great African
resource, diamonds. Such an arrangement does require all producers
and most consumers to be willing to implement the system, but this is
We hope the African deal brokered by Cde Nhema can now be allowed a
fair chance of working and, as all clauses are implemented, we hope
to see even more rationality in the debate over ivory trade.
This will benefit both the elephants and the Africans who live with
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