Shifeta’s tolerance growing thin

20 November 2020 | Environment

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said there is a limit to how much external influence Namibia will accept over the use of its natural resources, specifically elephants.

He said the value Namibia can generate from ivory trade is currently severely compromised by the actions of animal rights groups, who have influenced decisions at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), undermining Namibia’s conservation programmes.

“For how long this is going to be the case is unclear, but our tolerance is being severely tested,” the minister said.

He said the value the country can derive from the trade of ivory is one of the most important incentives for Namibians to co-exist with elephants.

Shifeta said Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products - including ivory - which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which, if traded internationally, could support elephant conservation and management for decades to come.

In the interests of conservation

“We favour a collective approach on the regulation of international trade, but ultimately, we have to act in the interests of conservation and the rural people who are so important in determining the fate of elephants in the long-term.”

Shifeta stressed that elephants are part of the natural resources of Namibia, over which it has full sovereignty.

The minister was speaking at the National Elephant Conservation and Management Plan consultative workshop.

Former executive director of the ministry Dr Malan Lindeque, who is consulting on the plan, echoed Shifeta’s sentiments, saying CITES’ decisions have cost Namibia a lot.

He pointed out that just the ivory that can be produced from elephant mortalities alone in Namibia would offset the cost of human-wildlife conflict yearly.

Lindeque added that while there is massive pressure from the international community regarding hunting, if it is compromised in the north-east, “there are some systems that will come to a halt”.

Million-dollar stockpile

The ministry was yesterday unable to confirm what the size of Namibia’s ivory stockpile is; however, in 2018, it was reported that the country possesses 69 69.4 tonnes of ivory, valued at N$125.48 million at that time.

Of the 69.4 tonnes, 29.9 tonnes represented legal ivory, while 39.4 tonnes is illegal ivory.

The legal ivory stockpile is valued at N$54.2 million, while the illegal ivory is worth N$71.3 million.

At the 18th meeting of CITES held Switzerland last year, Namibia together with Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe proposed that they should be allowed to sell their stockpiled ivory, with sales proceeds going towards wildlife management and community programmes.

This proposal was, however, rejected.

Rhino management

Meanwhile, in 2018, Chris Brown from the Namibia Chamber of Environment noted that the “time is right for Namibia …. to take some bold steps regarding rhino horn and rhino management”.

Brown argued that a legal - and transparent - trade would boost rhino conservation and significantly stem incentives for poaching. Legal wildlife markets deliver conservation dividends, he added.

Ideally the trade would be approved by CITES, but, if blocked, “it should be despite CITES, and then transparent monitoring and auditing becomes even more imperative.”