Namibia drops rhino horn sale bombshell

Namibia is seriously considering dumping CITES because the organisation won't allow it to sell its ivory stockpile worth over N$125 million or relax restrictions on white rhino hunting and export.

29 August 2019 | Environment

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta has announced that Namibia will consider withdrawing from the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

SADC countries have also indicated that the time has come to seriously reconsider whether there are any meaningful benefits from their membership to CITES.

Shifeta was speaking at the World Wildlife Conference - the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to CITES - after countries voted last week to reject proposals to relax restrictions on hunting and exporting Namibia's white rhinos. Namibia, which has the second largest population of white rhinos after South Africa, wants to allow more trophy hunting of rhinos and export of live animals and argued that the funds raised would help it to protect the species.

However, countries that are party to CITES voted against downgrading Namibia's white rhinos from Appendix I, the list of species threatened with extinction, to Appendix II, a list of species with looser protections.

Shifeta said Namibia would convene a meeting with other SADC member states to consider withdrawing from CITES.

“We had several submissions from SADC for downlisting our white rhino from Appendix I to Appendix II, but there are some who feel that Namibia's population is still small and we contested that Namibia's population is the second largest in the world,” said Shifeta.

He said there are countries that are part of CITES that do not even have rhino populations, but they have the audacity to tell others how to manage their wildlife.

Namibia estimated its white rhino population at 1 037 in 2017/18. The white rhino populations of South Africa and eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, are already in Appendix II.

“If CITES does not really help us to conserve our wild animals but are frustrating those that are doing good, I think there is no need for us to stay in CITES,” said Shifeta.

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli spoke on behalf of all SADC countries at the closing ceremony yesterday.

Magufuli expressed grave concern on behalf of SADC regarding the implementation of the Convention.

He said the way CITES was currently operating was contrary to its founding principles.

“Today CITES discards proven, working conservation models in favour of ideologically driven anti-use and anti-trade models,” he said.

Magufuli said such models are dictated by largely non-state actors who have no experience with, responsibility for, or ownership over wildlife resources.

“The result has been failure to adopt progressive, equitable, inclusive and science-based conservation strategies. We believe this failure has arisen from the domination of protectionist ideology over science decision-making within CITES.”

Magufuli said this anti-sustainable use and anti-trade ideology now dominated decisions made by many states that are party to CITES.

According to him states are increasingly influenced by protectionists whose ideological position has no basis in science or experience.

“This conservation model is based on entrenched and emotive rhetoric and discourse, backed up by intense lobbying, as opposed to science. Foremost amongst these ideas now dominating CITES is the unfounded belief that all trade fuels illegal, unsustainable trade, ignoring clear evidence to the contrary.”

Magufuli said examples of this are the attempts by others to impose new trade restrictions for species that are effectively conserved and utilised in SADC states, such as lions and giraffe, while the real threats in those states where such species are in decline are due to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict that continue to go unattended.

“We are further concerned that the positions of some parties appear to be based on national political considerations aimed at catering to the interests of national, intensively lobbied constituencies, as opposed to proven, science-based conservation strategies. This undermines the SADC states, on whom the responsibility to manage species falls, and our ability to do so effectively.”

Magufuli said as CITES is currently implemented, it undermines the rights of people living in rural areas of SADC states to have access to and use in a sustainable manner the natural resources present in their communities.

“The consensus expressed through CITES by the majority of states undermines our region in our efforts to secure social and environmental justice through the sustainable use of our natural resources. In doing so it is compromising our ability to meet obligations and responsibilities to other multilateral agreements and to our peoples.”

According to him the populations of iconic African wildlife species in SADC illustrate the effectiveness of its conservation models.

“Those who bear no cost of protecting our wildlife, nor bear any consequence for decisions of CITES on our species, vote without any accountability against working conservation models in our countries. To this end, we have had to invoke measures such as announcing a dispute, the first time ever, in CITES.”


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