Zambia seeks to petition CITES over ivory ban

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By Jeff Kapembwa

Lusaka – Zambia wants to petition the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in September seeking a waiver on the ban of the trade in stock-piled ivory.  

Zambia, together with Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, also has a huge population of elephants. The country’s efforts to benefit from ivory are being thwarted by the 30-year-old ban by CITES. 

Zimbabwe will next week host the inaugural African Union/United Nations Wildlife Summit.  It has already attracted Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Botswana, which form the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), as they seek to mobilise support for an end to the ban on ivory trade. 

Zambia’s Tourism Minister Charles Banda, whose country is stuck with 52 tonnes of ivory worth US$100 million, says efforts are underway to petition CITES.  

The KAZA countries want to table their concerns at a round table during the 18th meeting of the CITES Conference of Parties (CoP18) planned for Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 1-3 September.

Unless the waiver is considered, African countries may remain stuck with ivory tusks for as long as the CITES ban is in force. 

 “Africa is fighting to lift the ban of trade in ivory.  The only way to win this battle is by winning at the round table convention on CITES in Sri Lanka,”  Banda says in an interview.  

“It’s just a desire that we should lift the ban, but even when it is lifted, who is going to buy that ivory? That is the major challenge which we will be faced with.”

Zambia is stuck with both legal and illegal ivory because of the worldwide trade ban.  Banda argues that if allowed to sell its ivory, it will realise an average US$2,500 a kilogramme from an initial US$750 a kilogramme the commodity was initially fetching before the ban was imposed.

The resources could be used to quell escalating poaching in the country, with China being the main market of the poached ivory. The ban on the sale of the ivory has deprived Zambia of revenue the country needs to rejuvenate its ailing economy.  

SADC leaders, whose countries form the KAZA TFCA, last month met in Kasane, Botswana, to deliberate on, among others, the ban on the sale of ivory.  They accused CITES and western countries of ignoring their efforts to deal with the growing numbers of elephants within their territories. 

The summit was attended by SADC Chairperson and Namibian President Hage Geingob, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Zambian President Edgar Lungu and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It deliberated on a common position ahead of COP18.)  SADC’s common position would further enable its member states to align policies and strategies for sustainable use of natural resources and the management of wild flora and fauna across the region.

However, some commentators argue it would be difficult to convince CITES to rescind its decision arguing the reintroduction of the ivory sales would be rejected based on current global elephants poaching crisis.

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