CITES must sit down

10 May 2019 | Columns

For years now, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) has been rejecting Namibia and her neighbours’ proposals to open up the international trade in their ivory. Apart from Namibia, countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Swaziland have done everything possible to convince CITES to lift the ban on the trade, considering their conservation success stories. While these countries have managed to protect their wildlife, they also have seen a huge spike in their animal populations, which have increased beyond the carrying capacity of the land. Namibia is no exception and it is now sitting with an ivory stockpile worth a massive N$125 million. The stockpile consists of tusks confiscated from poachers, and because of natural deaths. Since the ban in 1989, Namibia has only been allowed controlled ivory trade in 1999 and 2008, with CITES arguing that legalising it would be devastating for African elephants, which are the source of most of the illegally traded ivory in the world. In its latest proposal, Namibia, along with Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, whose elephant populations are on Appendix II, want restrictions weakened so that ivory can be exported to consumer countries. The onus for the way forward now lies with delegates to the next World Wildlife Conference - the 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CITES, which will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is our sincere hope that the international gathering will allow the legal trade in ivory. This will of course be undertaken using adequate controls and with strict enforcement. Namibia has proven that it can indeed conserve its wildlife, seeing that the country now has an elephant population of 24 000 - up from 7 500 in 1995. Our model has always been the sustainable use of our wildlife resources, and we would certainly not allow our elephant population to be decimated. In the same breath, we need extra finances to take care of our people.