Emmanuel Koro Correspondent
Nothing and no one can stop Zimbabwe from selling its 35 live elephants to China and Pakistan, say experts on the rules of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
They were reacting to the ongoing protest again Zimbabwe’s live elephants sales by a little-known Zimbabwean animal rights organisation Advocates4Earth, widely thought to be created and controlled by Western animal rights groups to oppose any form of wildlife use in its own country.
Referring to the CITES notification No. 2019/055 issued on October 16 2019, the advisor to SADC countries on CITES trade regulations, Dr Malan Lindique, said: “The 90-day period has not expired yet.
“The amendment to the resolution is not yet in force. Zimbabwe notified a dispute on the amendment to the resolution. They have all the right in the world to ignore this amendment for the time being.”
According to the CITES notification No. 2019/055 issued last week, the CITES 90-day rule during which Zimbabwe can trade in its live elephants runs till November 26 2019.
Accordingly, the CITES rules and regulation experts from Switzerland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe have all dismissed and denounced the Advocates4Earth’s ongoing protest over Zimbabwe’s live elephant sales.
“Have you ever heard of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) taking a government wildlife management department to court over a perfectly legitimate and indeed urgent wildlife management action?” asked CEO of the South Africa-based True Green Alliance and renowned ecologist and African elephant expert Mr Ron Thomson.
“I refer, of course, to the Zimbabwe animal rights group Advocacy4Earth and its director, Lenin Chisaira, who wish to stop a previously arranged sale of 35 baby elephants to China and Pakistan.
“The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, legally, has 90 days of CITES grace to carry out this transaction and I can see no reason on earth why they should not sell these elephants. Zimbabwe needs the income.”
Explaining the purpose of the CITES 90-day rule, Secretary for Environment, Tourism and Hospitality industry Mr Munesu Munodawafa said that it allowed for “any outstanding contractual obligations to be honoured or negotiated otherwise and the same can be said of Zimbabwe.”
Mr Munodawafa said that if the rights groups cared about animal welfare they should first return all African wildlife in Western countries’ zoos back to Africa to live in their natural habitats.
“They charge and make money; that’s why they are not sending them back to their natural habitat, Africa,” said Mr Munodafawa.
According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), there are over 10 000 zoos worldwide.
Commenting on the same matter, Mr Charles Jonga, director for the Zimbabwe CAMPFIRE Programme that promotes conservation and development in rural areas through the sustainable use of wildlife and natural resources, said: “The world must wake up to these lies before our people turn their backs on wildlife conservation. They lie about hunting generating only 3 percent for communities; they promise to solve unemployment through tourism jobs. Lies have short legs.”
Meanwhile, Switzerland-based former CITES secretary-general (1982-1990) and president of the IWMC World Conservation Trust Mr Eugene Lapointe said that the animal rights groups’ initiatives towards CITES “are nothing else but fund-raising campaigns”.
“Thus the absolute necessity for the animal rights NGOs is to mislead the public on the status of the species populations, the important relationship that exists between local communities and the concerned species and the negative effect that their initiatives [banning any use of wildlife and their products] have on the targeted species,” said Mr Lapointe. “At CoP18, this issue of transportation of live elephants was one of the most debated one.
“As the discussions have demonstrated, the opposition to the international trade in live elephants was sponsored by the African Elephant Coalition, which can be referred to as spokespersons for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Franz Weber Foundation (FWF).”
In a typical animal rights permanent culture of misleading the world, Advocates4Earth’s Mr Chisaira claimed that the August 2018 CITES CoP18 passed a resolution that says, “trading African elephants outside the continent is illegal”.
The truth is that CITES CoP18 didn’t ban but only introduced stricter measures for live elephants exports anywhere in the world. The new and stricter live elephants international trade regulations include the need for the exporting scientific authority to advise that the export will “not be detrimental to the survival of the species”.
The exporting management authority must be satisfied that the animals were legally obtained.
Prior to the transportation of the elephants, the importing management authority should issue an import permit, having been satisfied that the animal(s) will “not to be used for primarily commercial purposes.
Additionally, the scientific authority in the importing state should be satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is “suitably equipped to house and care for it” and that the import will be “for purposes which are not detrimental to the survival of the species”.
Nowhere, in the text of CITES’ new and stricter regulations for trade in live elephants does it say, “trading African elephants outside the continent [Africa] is illegal” as Advocates4Earth would like the world to believe.
Sadly, the Advocates4Earth director, Mr Chisaira also noted that “baby elephants detained at Hwange National Park” ready for sale in China and Pakistan.
On the contrary, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director-general Mr Fulton Mangwanya said Zimbabwe was involved with the sale of sub-adults elephants and not babies.”
Just as a Government minister who is convening a conference on “Violence Against Women and Children” will not invite paedophiles and rapists to his conference — because they are undesirable, unwelcome and for a variety of reasons they are incompetent in this field,” said Mr Thomson. “So, too — on exactly the same grounds — should animal rightists (like Mr Chisaira), and animal rightist NGOs (like the Advocacy4Earth) not be invited into any part of the wildlife management debate.”
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.