By John Nhandara
FOLLOWING the government’s approval of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund, stakeholders in the wildlife sector say the elephant in the room remains the CITES(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) ban on the ivory trade.
Cases of human and wildlife conflict remain a challenge in most communities across the country, with the National Parks and Wildlife admitting that it is inundated by distress calls from people who fall victim to the conflicts daily.
While the government continues to come up with various interventions such as the recently approved Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund and various conservation strategies, stakeholders say a lasting solution will only be realised if the CITES ban on the ivory trade is lifted.
“Conservation is expensive, over the past year we have received 2 000 distress calls from communities and as Zimparks we need to react to those problems on animal control. Over the years we have been relying on tourism. We are saying we need to trade to fund our conservation efforts,” said Tinashe Farawo, ZIMPARKS Spokesperson.
Ahead of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (COP 19) in Panama later this month, the Zimbabwean government says the SADC position is clear, the CITES ban should be lifted to enable sustainable conservation of wildlife.
“One life lost is too many and the international community has to understand that we need to work on the complete elimination of conflict between humans and wildlife. We have millions of dollars sitting in ivory stockpiles which we can use for planning and conservation purposes,” said Dr Emmanuel Fundira the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is sitting on a 136-tonne ivory stockpile worth about US$600 million, which could be ploughed back into conservation efforts.
During COP19 preparatory meetings for SADC member states earlier this year, concern was raised over the imposition of wildlife and ivory trade ban by countries that do not have wildlife, a situation affecting mostly African countries.