By Emmanuel Koro
Johannesburg, 16 May 2023
African conservationists and a U.S.A ivory education specialist have condemned anti-ivory use groups for protesting British Queen Consort Camilla’s determination to carry a rod made of ivory at the coronation of her husband, King Charles, on 6 May 2023.
In an interview, Botswana Chieftainess Rebecca Banika said, “It’s indeed a good move for the Queen of England to show support [for the need to use wildlife products such as ivory.]
“We see this as support for communities co-existing with wildlife such as those in elephant-over-populated Botswana,” she said. “We need trade in surplus ivory to help us survive.”
“The anti-ivory groups in Western nations continually turn a blind eye to our cries for help. They are more interested in soliciting donations so they can enrich themselves and bribe others.”
Chieftainess Banika noted that the fact that Queen Camilla intends to hold an ivory sceptre “gives us hope that ivory is still valued and can be soon be acquired by those who can make the best use of it.”
Speaking from Los Angeles, U.S.A., the managing director of the Ivory Education Institute, Mr Godfrey Harris, condemned the anti-ivory groups’ protest, calling it “contrived,” a “clumsy way to try to take advantage of a major world event,” and a “shameful” act by groups that claim to be “conservationists.”
Mr Harris said that the animal rights groups “purport to support elephant conservation but don’t exhibit any knowledge of the unique cultures of wildlife-rich and elephant over-populated southern Africa.”
“I support the British royal household’s decision to honour history in the use of one of the world’s most precious and most useful materials,” said Mr Harris.
“Where is there any evidence of what these publicity-seeking groups have done for wild animals?
“How much have they spent each year on travel and meetings and their own salaries and how much on the animals? Where is the proof that the historic use of ivory “stimulates” the marketplace?”
Elsewhere, one of Zimbabwe’s fiercest lobbyists supporting ivory trade and Chairman of the Hwange Painted Dog Project, Mr Jerry Gotora, a graduate economist, blasted the anti-ivory groups for coming up with a protest that in reality has nothing to do with elephant conservation but everything to do with trying to hijack the coronation of King Charles for fundraising purposes.
“Western hunter-pioneers and miners looted tonnes and tonnes of ivory and gold for European markets just a few years ago — when they had colonial control of Africa’s wildlife.
“The truth is that they wanted ivory and gold from this part of the world for their own benefit and today maintain a straight face when they continue to sponsor policies to keep that control while denying us the right to trade in some of these same products for our benefit.
“Over the years, Westerners have killed more wild animals — such as elephants — than modern-day poachers and true to the hypocrisy of the anti-ivory crowd they pretend to be true conservationists,” he said.
Asked if he considers Queen Camilla’s decision to hold an ivory rod as support for use of ivory by elephant over-populated SADC countries, Mr Gotora said “no.”
He said that historically the use of ivory was generally “not for everyone but for the aristocracy only – an open display of a level of greediness and selfishness only they could afford.”
“Remember before independence in Africa, only whites — mostly connected to the royal families in Europe — were allowed to hunt,” said Mr Gotora. “Wildlife was considered Royal Game.
Harris summed up the current situation: “Deriving value from Africa’s wildlife products and applying that value to long-lasting conservation projects will only occur when someone of authority, somewhere in Southern Africa, shows the selfless courage to stand up to the anti-ivory groups and animal welfare organisations that are today misguiding CITES, the UN’s wildlife trade regulating agency, and the area’s environmental agencies. Even if that individual makes mistakes by approving policies that fail to produce all the results sought, that effort will be better than the anti-ivory trade dead end and conservation starved conditions that the elephant over-populated SADC countries are stuck in now.
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning journalist who writes independently on environmental and development issues in Africa.