Namibia's trade in live elephants 2nd in Africa

23 July 2020 | Environment

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The second highest number of live elephant exports in Africa comes from Namibia.

However, the problematic interpretation of the African elephant's split listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by Namibia has also been highlighted.

This is contained in an analysis of data from CITES' trade database that was submitted to the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee, which took place from 13 to 17 July.

It shows that since 2010, most live elephants exported from Africa came from Zimbabwe (144), followed by Namibia (24) Eswatini (17) and Tanzania (nine).

Most of these elephants were imported by China (147), Mexico (18), the United States (17), Cuba (six), the United Arab Emirates (four) and South Korea (two).



Implications and impacts

The document analysed information on the legal implications, biological impacts and welfare effects of the trade in live African elephants.

This follows CITES' December 2019 announcement that several countries had stated their intention to not implement agreements to protect species from international trade — agreements that were reached at the CITES August meeting.

Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe reportedly refused to cooperate with the near total ban on international trade in wild-caught live elephants to foreign zoos.



Irregularities

The document said that in 2012 and 2013, Namibia exported 24 wild-caught elephants to Mexico (18) and Cuba (six).

“The Mexico case showed a discrepancy between the exporter and importer data – Namibia registered an export of nine elephants while Mexico claimed it received 18. Interestingly, the exports were conducted under an Appendix I listing, even though elephants in Namibia are listed in Appendix II.”

It was pointed out in the report that the annotation for the Appendix II listing specifies that trade in live elephants from Namibia is strictly for “in situ conservation programmes”, meaning no live elephants may be exported beyond their natural range.

“Since neither Cuba nor Mexico are African elephant range states, the exports were not in accordance with the CITES Appendix II annotation relevant for Namibia. Namibia therefore exported the elephants under Appendix I, which has no such restriction, albeit any export must be conducted for non-commercial purposes and a Scientific Authority of the State of import must issue a finding that it is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it.”

The report noted that Namibia's use of the Appendix I listing rather than the actual Appendix II listing highlights the problematic interpretation and implementation of the CITES appendices for species with a split-listing such as the African elephant.

Meanwhile in May 2017, Namibia issued CITES permits to export five elephant calves to Dubai Safari in the UAE, again under an Appendix I listing.

It said the sale was reportedly abandoned by the environment ministry after capture, because the seller of the elephants had not met the regulations for capture and transportation and there were doubts whether Dubai Safari was suitably equipped to house and care for them.

Furthermore, Pakistan attempted and failed to import two elephants for the Lahore Zoo from Namibia in late 2019.

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