The Republic of Zimbabwe will host an African elephant summit in the Hwange National Park from Monday 23rd to Thursday 26th May 2022.
The summit will also officially announce the inauguration of the aerial elephant survey which has been spearheaded by the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) to take place in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The survey will begin in July and end in August 2022, Mr Darren Potgieter, a South African, has been appointed as the aerial co-ordinator.
In 1979 there were an estimated 1.3 million African elephants. Today there are less than half a million. The elephants have primarily been killed for their ivory. The human population has tripled in the elephant range states since 1970. In October 1989, at the seventh meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP7) governments banned the international trade in ivory.
The Zimbabwean Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu has said that the primary purpose for the Elephant Conservation Summit is in preparation for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 19th Conference of Parties (CITES CoP19) scheduled to take place from the 14th – 25th of November 2022 in Panama.
Young elephants being captured by officials in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe for export to zoos in China.
According to Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management representatives from fourteen African Countries, as well as from China and Japan, are scheduled to attend the summit. Media reports claim that the summit will highlight the negative impact of the ban on the international trade in ivory. The Ministerial declaration will contain calls by African governments for CITES to lift the 1989 ban on the international ivory trade to allow countries like Zimbabwe to sell ivory and reduce the elephant population.
Juvenile elephants from Zimbabwe at Hangzhou Safari Park
Image Credit: Chunmei Hu – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/06/secret-footage-obtained-of-the-wild-elephants-sold-into-captivity-in-chinese-zoos
Zimbabwe has publicly voiced frustration at not being allowed to export live elephants to zoos in China or the United Arab Emirates or to sell raw ivory to countries where ivory is still being utilized such as Japan.
On the 17th of May 2022 Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said that that Zimbabwe is prepared to operate outside CITES regulations because “All possibilities of us selling our excess live elephants to those who want to populate their areas have been cut under CITES. They have introduced an amendment to the current CITES provisions which says we can only sell to the African countries most of whom have these elephants in abundance.”
Image Credit: Associated Press / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi – https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/zimbabwe-urges-sale-of-stockpile-of-seized-elephant-ivory/2022/05/17/184678be-d5d8-11ec-be17-286164974c54_story.html
On Monday 17th of May 2022, envoys from the Netherlands, Germany, France Britain, Switzerland, Canda and the United States were given a tour of the ivory stockpiles in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Management Authority.
Zimbabwe is seeking international support to be allowed to sell its stockpile of seized ivory stating that $600 million it expects to earn is urgently needed for the conservation of its rapidly growing elephant population which it describes as “dangerous”. Zimbabwe reportedly has 130 tons of ivory and 6 tons of rhino horn.
It is important to note that the stockpile includes seized ivory which may not be sold in terms of CITES regulations and that the value of ivory stockpiles in Zimbabwe and Namibia are greatly overstated in order to justify the sales.
In June, in 2008, in Mombasa in Kenya the African Elephant Coalition consisting of West, Central and East African states joined forces to support the a moratorium on the ivory trade. The African Elephant Coalition represents the majority of African nations.
Two months ago the African Elephant Coalition called for the closure of ivory markets in Japan, saying that they contribute to the illegal killing of elephants in Africa at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora conference held in Lyon in France.
Dieudonne Yameogo, Director of Wildlife and Hunting Resources in Burkina Faso, stated that the legal markets offered an opportunity for laundering ivory and therefore contribute to the illegal trade and to the illegal killing of elephants.
In 2016 a recommendation was adopted to close ivory markets in ivory-consuming countries such as Singapore, the United Kingdom, China, the United States of America and Japan. CITES resolution 18.117 states that “Countries that have not closed their domestic markets in raw and worked ivory are requested to report to the Secretariart for consideration by the Standing Committee on what measures they are taking to ensure that their domestic ivory markets are not contributing to the illegal killing of elephants or to the illegal trade in ivory.”
Japan was singled out as a country that had done nothing to close its ivory markets.
The African Elephant Coalition stated that when CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP19) takes place in Panama in November, it must uphold resolution 18.117.
The Standing Committee of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at its meeting in Lyon,France on the 10th of March 2022, agreed that countries must continue to report on their domestic ivory markets.
Israel, the United States of America, the EU and its member states, China, the United Kingdom, Gabon and Burkina Faso called for Decision 18.117 to 18.119 to be renewed in November in Panama.
The Zimbabwean conservation system was conceived during the period of colonialism and reflects the authoritarian norms of those eras, which victimized humans and other animals. Zimbabwe is also well known for its stance on the commercial exploitation of wildlife.
The foreign envoys visiting Zimbabwe and those people who choose to support the government’s official stance on elephant management will be aware of developments and concerns about Zimbabwe’s compliance with its international human rights obligations under the administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwaand State violence against government critics.
There has been no accountability for abuses by security forces, including the August 2018 post-election violence and killings and rape during the January 2019 protests. Abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses against opposition parties politicians and activists have not been meaningfully investigated.
Corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private and civil sectors. Zimbabwe along with Honduras, Iraq and Cambodia ranks 157th of 180 countries in the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions index.
Zimbabwe’s human rights situation continued to decline in 2020 under Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency. Unidentified assailants, suspected to be state security agents, abducted and tortured more than 70 critics of the government during 2020.
Security forces also continued to commit arbitrary arrests, violent assaults, abductions, torture and other abuses against opposition politicians, dissidents and activists.
The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union all renewed targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe for serious rights abuses by security forces, corruption, and failure to ensure justice for past abuses.
Zimbabwe has a history of non-compliance with CITES. Based on similar patterns of denial and secrecy by the responsible authorities in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean government, in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 and from the Zimbabwean embassy in China – which all proved to be false – and assurances from the new Zimbabwe administration in 2018 that it had turned over a new leaf – Parties to CITES have sufficient cause to be sceptical.
Considering the continuing high profile international focus on elephants, and the wealth of scientific data pointing to the extreme sociality and intelligence of elephants, it is also astounding that any government would allow elephants to be killed for their ivory.
We are in the midst of an extinction crisis that could unravel life as we know it. Wildlife exploitation is the leading driver of marine species loss and the secondary driver of terrestrial species loss. The IPBES 2019 assessment – the most comprehensive assessment of its kind – showed that:
It can no longer be business as usual and it is therefore compulsory for governments, on a national and international level, to urgently shift their policy base away from consumptive utilisation and extractivism and to redefine our relationship with wildlife to bring about transformative change, harmonious co-existence, respect, one health and welfare, justice and Ubuntuness.
Today the EMS Foundation has signed a joint statement issued by the International Environmental Investigation Agency on the Zimbabwe Elephant Summit and legal ivory trade.
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