Compiled by Emmanuel Koro, African environmental journalist who has extensively written on environment and development issues in Africa.
IN THIS ISSUE: SADC Chair Tanzania to lead fight against CITES injustices? Western countries blame Brazil for causing Amazon fires but not themselves for causing SADC elephant and rhino poaching. Secret ballot good manipulation tool for CITES vote-rigging culprits.
• SADC countries are beginning to think owning elephants and rhinos is a ‘curse’ because CITES continues to ban international trade in their stockpiled ivory and rhino horn. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has just announced Zimbabwe’s intention to pull out of CITES, in order “to fully benefit from its conservation of natural resources.”
• “We fought for political independence and we now have it,” said Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Director of Wildlife, Dr. Maurus Msuha. “The next fight for us is now the fight for the right to use our resources for the development of our own people. This needs political pressure from our governments who should say that we don’t need this anymore (being denied our sovereign rights to trade in our wildlife products).”
• Dr. Msuha said that the SADC media “needs to be here” (CoP18) to cover these controversial decisions and explain to our people how they will affect us positively or negatively in the future.
• Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda declared that the CITES Secretariat needed to note for the record that it believed the rejection of SADC countries’ ivory trade bid was inconsistent and might be construed as “racist.”
THE SOURCE COMMENT: Sadly, the Western animal rights groups and their governments don’t care that the anti-trade decisions continue to create a wildlife-poaching crisis in SADC, driving thousands of elephants and rhinos annually toward extinction. The ban on ivory trade doesn’t stop poaching; it ironically fuels it. It has not and will never save a single rhino and elephant. The ban has been in force for the past 44 years but poaching and illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn continues daily. The media is awash with stories of poaching and illegal trade. If such massive wildlife destruction could be shown in real-time as the Amazon fires are being shown live on television, then the G7 leaders that met in Southern France this week might have seen how the West is guilty of destroying wildlife by sponsoring trade bans that not only harm wildlife but also continue to trap Africans in untold poverty.
• After the secret ballot vote to reject the request of Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe to allow the sale of their ivory stocks, the CITES Secretariat summed up the post vote discussion this way: “The following Parties made an explanation of their vote: the European Union and the United States voted against, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo voted for the amendment.”
• While the secret ballot may be favored by individual voters to avoid intimidation, secret ballots exercised in an international agency setting can become suspect. The heavy hand of certain well-heeled non-governmental organisations cannot be ascertained in a vote that hides how any country cast its ballot; undue influence cannot be detected. How are the suspected corruptive activities of the major NGOs to be combatted when the world doesn’t know who accepted a payoff for a vote against its national interest and who resisted that temptation? The CITES secret ballot now creates serious doubt about the integrity of the CITES voting process.
• CITES is a strange fish. The treaty is a U.S. invention created by the animal welfare groups and the US, not the UN, is its depository. Every three years it brings the signatories to the treaty together but paid the expenses of 94 of the 140 or so delegations registered for the Geneva meeting. Each delegate gets about $8000 each to come and attend. Notably, getting to and from the 6th-most-expensive-city-in-the-world Geneva is not cheap.
THE SOURCE COMMENT: There appears to be enough padding in the stipend to put these delegations in the ‘pockets’ of the US and the EU which meet the CITES budget, through government funds and private contributions. The numbers in attendance give the appearance of its worldwide importance, but in fact, this is an organisation controlled by a few countries and the major non-governmental organisations.
• The Israel woolly mammoth drama continued yesterday. Knowing that its proposal to have extinct woolly mammoth listed in Appendix II was fiercely and overwhelmingly opposed, Israel decided to withdraw its original resolution. Following the Committee chair’s directive that Israel needed to discuss the issue before a final decision the next day, it reached out to Canada who maintained no study was needed on the laundering of woolly mammoth ivory. The Russians did not bother meeting with Israel, because they remained opposed to CITES having anything to do with mammoth ivory.
THE SOURCE COMMENT: Given the Secretariat’s explanation that they will issue requests for funding to all signatories following CoP 18, it is pretty clear that Israel will have to put up the money for the woolly mammoth ivory laundering study it requested, in order to continue the political face-saving. What a moment of madness. We will watch to see if the Secretariat reports on the woolly mammoth issue to Standing Committee 74 in 2020.