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African countries pledge unity on elephants

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BY SINDISO DUBE

A SUMMIT on African elephants held in Hwange last week pledged to ensure that all jumbo conservation efforts benefit local communities.

The meeting, under the theme New and Better Deal for Elephant Conversation, Tourism, Rural Communities in key African Range States, came as Zimbabwe and other African countries are lobbying for the lifting of the ban on ivory trade ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) indaba in November.

Early this month, Zimbabwe unveiled its ivory stockpile to envoys from the European Union and Japan to urge them to support its plea to sell the country’s 130 tonnes ivory stockpile worth US$600 million.

While Cites imposed a total ban on ivory trade in 1998, Zimbabwe was later allowed to resume limited and monitored trade with Japan and China, but it has not been enough to deplete its stockpile.

Some of the resolutions made at the summit include that Cites’ decision must be reviewed because they were not scientific, but based on votes and emotions.

Participants called for the inclusion of communities in wildlife areas in decision-making processes so that a consensus can be reached on sustainable elephant management practices. They also said Africa should speak with one voice on the ban of ivory sale.

Addressing delegates at the summit, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry secretary Munesushe Munodawafa said: “The elephant economy, just like the general wildlife economy, has not benefited local people. Trade is not a danger to elephants, but habitat loss and conflicts with humans. Governments of elephant range States are faced with social and political pressures on why elephants are prioritised over local, lives and livelihoods.”

He said Cites should allow elephant trade as well as accept elephant conservation practices such as Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources and trophy hunting that have in the past benefited rural communities.

Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu said:  “We need to find ways of ensuring our communities play a central role in managing wildlife within their localities. Community participation will allow us to address illegal wildlife trade, land use and human-wildlife conflicts.”

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