HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsCan our brand ambassadors please stand up?

Can our brand ambassadors please stand up?

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Poaching of animals is a serious issue and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) Standing Committee has addressed anti-poaching efforts on multiple occasions. Fortunately, none of the recommendations made by the Standing Committee implicated hunting as a problem.

WISDOM MDZUNGAIRI VIEWPOINT

Many of the countries that are members of Cites, especially Zimbabwe, understand the value and benefits that hunting can bring to both elephants and rhinos, but others still do not acknowledge the positive role that hunting can play.

In essence, African elephants and rhinos are two topics of priority for conservation.
Although what came out at the Cites 65th Standing Committee meeting in mid-July was essential for the conservation it must be noted that some quarters are pushing for the listing of the African elephant from Appendix II to Appendix I.

Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among Cites-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and Cites prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial.

The difference is that Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called “look-alike species” such as species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons.

International trade in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate.

No import permit is necessary for these species under Cites (although a permit is needed in Zimbabwe among other countries that have taken stricter measures than Cites requires).

This therefore means that once the African elephant is listed on Appendix I the country’s consumptive tourism sector can kiss goodbye to safari hunting, and from the look of things Zimbabwe’s safari hunting industry may lose thousands of jobs. But will there be any incentive to protecting wildlife except for the pot? Perhaps for posterity and not for trade.

It is important to note that elephants were downgraded to Appendix II in 1997 paving the way for Zimbabwe to commercially trade in ivory and other elephant products. But rampant poaching could be the final assault to continued trading of elephants products in the country.

Botswana stopped hunting in January this year, while Zambia has followed suit, and this will leave Zimbabwe while Namibia is allowed to hunt the rhinos.

The fight to list the elephants sometimes gets nastier back grounded by individual countries international politics. Clearly, Zimbabwe’s politics are or have been distorted for some reason and this means debate around the ban recently kick-started and will continue before several working groups until the next Standing Committee meeting in September or the next Cites conference of the Parties in 2016.

At the recent meeting several issues were discussed and indications are that Kenya is persuading its partners to support its proposal to ban elephant hunting in addition to listing lions both of which are cash cows for the safari industry in the country.

Does Zimbabwe have an option? I wonder, given its neighbours have accepted huge incentives from the greens organisation to abandon hunting for non-consumptive tourism so as not to give value to the elephant, lion or rhino. And so the fight between the hunting community and wildlife friendly organisations has slowly started.

Zimbabwe can take solace though in that indications from the recent the first ever US – Africa Leaders Summit discussed the best ways to combat wildlife trafficking. The meeting hosted 50 African Heads of State minus Zimbabwe deliberated on anti-poaching efforts and future collaboration on best practices.

The White House stated that the summit “would highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent.” It is hoped that incorporating some African leaders’ perspectives into the US National Strategy on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking will bring better results. It is important that this was the first time African leaders were included in discussions about the implementation of the strategy and wildlife trafficking task force’s plan to curb poaching of wildlife in Africa.

Recent studies have determined that poverty, weak governance, and demand for illegal ivory are the three key factors driving poaching. These key factors are not new, but they can be addressed with simple resources which make a huge on-the-ground impact.

Like many hunters hunting enthusiasts are disappointed in the US decision to persist in upholding a ban. Zimbabwe perhaps needs to play ball also –provide scientific data as no game count has been done for many years.

Without this information everything else could guess work. If the ban is extended to lion hunting this could spell doom to the industry at large.

It is sad that the wildlife industry appears shy to do its work. The fact is they continue to publicly talk about the benefits of hunting while doing nothing to build their case. Actually, they are aiding or siding with anti-hunting extremists time after time.

This secrecy has significantly affected our safari industry and clearly radical change in the way we handle this kind of information is needed.

Game counts are important for decision makers globally and there is nothing security about knowing how many elephants, lions and/or rhinos the country has. What should Zimbabwe’s expectations be on its most priced asset?

True, without a cause, Zimbabwe’s progress will be stunted.

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