“Elephants must pay for their upkeep” ....One SADC, one voice

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Sinikiwe Marodza

Harare - It is no secret the SADC region is going through one of the most difficult times after losing lives to tropical Cyclone Idai that claimed more than 1 000 lives, destroyed infrastructure that needs billions of dollars for reconstruction, and left thousands homeless in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The region was also hit by Cyclone Kenneth that also left a trail of destruction that needs money to get things back together again.

 A time where most of the SADC member states have encountered a dry season spell that left the region with a shrinking food supply, is the very same time that the region is forced to deal with a ballooning elephant population that is conflicting and competing for resources like water, space and vegetation with humans.

It is the very same time the region is sitting on top of thousands and thousands tonnes of ivory worthy millions of dollars, millions that could be helping communities deal with natural disasters, millions that could easily help reduce competition between elephants and humans.

Southern Africa is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s elephants, making it one of the regions that carries the world’s largest elephant population. With no access to international trade of live elephants or ivory, researches are showing that the elephant population keeps increasing as each day passes.

Zimbabwe, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, statistics has a total of 84 000 elephants plus 100 000 kgs of ivory, yet the responsible authorities are struggling to fund conservation and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

However, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, at this week’s  elephant summit in Botswana, urged all SADC nations to unite and stick to their collective position on sustainable elephant conservation management and reject machinations by Western powers to impose a ban on ivory trade, ahead of the 18th edition of CITES’ Conference of Parties (COP18) meeting scheduled for next month in Sri Lanka.

“As we approach CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), let us, therefore, resolutely affirm our collective position on sustainable elephant conservation management.

“Let us boldly speak with one voice, in the best interests of our communities. The one-size-fits-all banning of everything under CITES, disregarding the good efforts and investments by our respective governments is neither sustainable nor desirable.

“Elephants are arguably a symbol of success in conservation strategies in our region and a key draw card to our tourism industry. It is most opportune that we are meeting to reflect on this important species as well as recalibrate our strategies to ensure that appropriate benefits accrue to our nations and respective communities,” he said.

SADC nations, however, have shown commitment to their plea to end the problems rooting from the ballooning numbers of elephants within the region.

Speaking at the same event, SADC chairperson and Namibian president Hage Geingob said SADC is united in the sustainable utilisation of the region’s wildlife resources.

“Europeans cannot lecture us on conservation when they poached their animals to extension,” he said.

For a fact, wildlife animals are beautiful and, yes, they must be cherished, but when over populated, they bring more harm than good, in many cases as according to the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) researches and findings, elephants have impoverished communities and left scars in the lives of many, hence the need to control their numbers.

Ahead of the CITES convention, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi made it clear that Africa, especially countries from the SADC region, must stand their ground to make sure that western countries do not dictate how Africans should manage their resources.

“It startles and bamboozles me when people sit in the comfort of where they come from and lecture to us about the management of the species they don’t have.

“They want to admire from a distance and in the admiration of those species they forget that we too, are species. They talk as if we are the trees and grass that the elephants feed on,” he said.

 

 

 

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