As King Charles III’s coronation date — May 6, 2023 — draws closer, southern African communities have joined Botswana Chieftainess Rebecca Banika and US-based ivory specialist, Godfrey Harris, in supporting Buckingham Palace’s decision to have Queen Camilla carry a historic ivory rod during the ceremony.
Both Chieftainess Banika and Harris have denounced the anti-ivory groups as being “out-of-touch with the undeniable fact that ivory has historical and cultural importance to the world — and a central place in the coronation of a British royal couple.”
“We find the demand by the animals rights groups that Queen Camilla should not use an historic ivory rod as totally unreasonable,” said chairman of the Southern Africa Community Leaders Network, Rodgers Lubilo who was educated at a wildlife-revenue-built secondary school in south Luangwa, Zambia. “Even our own chiefs use ivory and other animal parts such as tails and skins as symbols of the greatness and richness of African culture and their role in preserving it.”
In an interview this week, Harris, the managing director of the Los Angeles-based Ivory Education Institute, who was born in England and later migrated to the US said, “I hope everyone watches the coronation on May 6th to see for themselves whether Charles and Camilla honour 250 years of Royal history and she carries the Royal sceptre as a symbol of her office as Queen Consort.
“Many art connoisseurs, antique experts, and cultural historians were upset when a little known vegan group demanded that the sceptre be left out of the coronation ceremony in order to ‘protect’ elephants in Africa’s range states. They are thankful that King Charles III, Queen Camilla and the Royal Household have rejected their publicity-seeking plea.”
In an article published last week in The Telegraph, Cape Town-based journalist Ben Farmer wrote, “Buckingham Palace has defended the use of the 3ft long rod, which represents the Holy Spirit, saying it was inevitable that a large historic collection like the Crown Jewels would contain ivory.”
Farmer continued: “The sceptre was made by the royal goldsmith Robert Vyner for Mary of Modena when she was crowned alongside her husband, James II, in 1685 and has been used to crown every queen consort since.”
Harris, who manages the Ivory Education Institute, has just been given the Best of Brentwood Award for Public Service in 2023. Brentwood is a sector of the Westside of Los Angeles where US Vice-President Kamala Harris and former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger live.
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In acknowledging the importance of the award, Harris commented that the clueless, single-minded anti-ivory “crowd” would disdain the symbolism of history during the coronation “to try to make a hollow political point.” He added that famed Jamaican activist, Marcus Garvey, got it right when he wrote: “People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Reacting to an article published by another British daily newspaper, The Daily Mail last week, explaining Botswana Chieftainess Banika’s strong support for Queen Camilla’s decision to carry the ivory rod, some of the paper’s readers supported Camilla’s position while others opposed it.
“There is no reason not to use a beautiful piece made of ivory,” said Clarity, A, of Richmond. “The elephant that provided it had been dead for centuries. You can’t bring it back and give the tusk back to the elephant. It would be wasteful not to use it.”
One of the protestors said that to parade through the streets adorned in the dead tusks of beautifully murdered elephants takes a certain kind of person to be okay with that. Maybe she will beat the rotten cabbages away with it.
Meanwhile, Lubilo said that the Community Leaders’ Network (CLN) of the elephant-over-populated Southern Africa region would like to urge the Royal couple not to please a “crowd” that is hell bent on destroying the value of ivory and the British royal family’s history and tradition.
Elsewhere, a resident of Botswana’s wildlife-rich Ngamiland district and also the director for the Ngamiland’s Council of non-governmental organisations, Siyoka Simasiku said animal rights groups are afraid that Queen Camilla’s holding an ivory rod at King Charles III’s coronation would signal support of ivory use and trade.
“It would. But in the Sadc countries, the ivory of elephants that die of natural causes is a symbol and source of our community’s livelihood,” said Simasiku. “The anti-ivory groups are afraid that this will communicate the wrong signal [such as the use of wildlife hunting trophies] at a time when the House of Lords is set to review the British parliamentarians’ recent vote to ban the import of hunting trophies.”
Lubilo said that the CLN favours the import of hunting trophies just as it “views the animals rights groups’ lobby to pressure Queen Camilla into refusing to carry the ivory rod as hard evidence that they are totally out-of-touch with the reality that ivory is a vital economic resource with important historical as well as cultural values.”
Meanwhile, Lubilo observed that for many years the animal rights groups have selfishly influenced the member countries of CITES, the UN agency that regulates international trade in endangered fauna and flora species. These groups have coached the majority of CITES member countries to never vote for the proposals of elephant-overpopulated southern African countries, to trade in their large quantities of stockpiled ivory. Yet, the southern African presidents and citizens are calling for unlocking the value of their wildlife through legal and sustainable ivory trade.
“Therefore, the animal rights groups’ protest against Queen Camilla’s carrying of the ivory rod is unacceptable and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves,” Lubilo said.
“We wish King Charles III well, during his coronation and coming reign and we look forward to having a conversation in the future with the royal family regarding the workable conservation of all wild species.”
- Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and developmental issues in Africa.