CoP18 — Geneva, Switzerland
Compiled by Emmanuel Koro, African environmental journalist who has extensively written on environment and development issues in Africa.
IN THIS ISSUE:
South Africa calls for rhino conservation paradigm shift,
Africans cry foul over Western animal rights group’s ongoing attempts to stop ivory and rhino horn trade,
Protests over CITES Secretary-General statement that vote-rigging disadvantaged states have the burden to bring evidence.
• South Africa has called for a paradigm shift in rhino conservation, suggesting for the first time that its high time that it gave its black rural communities ownership of rhinos, in order to breed and grow the population of this iconic species.
• “How do we involve local communities indirect ownership of rhinos becomes a very important ,” said the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs Director General of Biodiversity and Conservation, Shonisani Munzhedzi.
• “We need to count numbers of certain communities through the land that they occupy [and then give them] ownership of rhinos,” said Munzhedzi.
• Meanwhile, South Africa’s President of Private Rhino Breeders (PROA), Pelham Jones, said that the ban on rhino horn trade has failed to save a single rhino in the world. He said that it ironically has increased rhino poaching and illegal rhino horn trade and also removed incentives to continue owning and breeding rhinos that don’t pay for their upkeep through rhino horn trade.
• The PROA members own about 50% of South Africa’s rhino populations. Sadly, if international rhino horn trade continues to be banned it would work against rhino conservation. Sadly, one hundred rhino breeding reserves have already been closed due to the high costs of breeding rhinos that don’t pay their way through rhino horn trade.
• “We have seen 100% illegal rhino trade benefits going to criminals with zero legal benefits going to rhino breeders,” lamented Jones in his passionate appeal for the resumption of rhino horn trade to incentivise rhino conservation.
• Elsewhere, one of South Africa’s leading environmental organizations, The True Green Alliance (TGA) board members reacted angrily to the CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero’s statement that CITES member countries that continue to have their votes corruptly influenced have the burden of providing the proof of this activity to CITES.
• “Get someone to tell Higuero that it is not the function of whistle-blowers to provide the proof,” said President of TGA, John Rance. “The matter [vote buying scandal] has been brought to the attention of the CITES Secretariat and it’s their job to institute an inquiry.”
• Meanwhile, the debate on Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe’s proposals to be able to trade their stockpiled ivory, harvested from their overpopulated protected elephant areas, starts today. The vote on the SADC countries’ ivory trade proposals is set for the Thursday session of CoP18 Committee II.
THE SOURCE COMMENT: No kind words are likely to be exchanged in this debate, where Western animal rights groups are hell-bent on blocking ivory trade however justified for their own selfish financial benefits. On the other hand, the Southern African countries’ presidents have already warned the CITES Secretariat not to use a one-shoe-size fit all approach to unfairly deny them their sovereign rights to trade in ivory harvested from their huge elephant populations that have exceeded the carrying capacities of their protected areas.
Even African journalists have joined the ivory trade debate, protesting how Western animal rights and some Western countries’ have continued to try to prevent Africans from benefiting from their more-than-enough elephant populations.
“It appears African governments are blind to the fight with the neo-colonial interests,” said Rwandan journalist Gerald Mbada and author of a book on China-Rwanda economic cooperation. “SADC countries seem to be organized but East, West and Central Africa still are in the dark. Western conservation organizations have bribed the authorities that would be advising governments on the right and a Pan-African approach. We are losing millions of dollars in unsold ivory; yet [our governments] beg [funds] from the West to run our national parks. A big shame.”
A journalist from Botswana also expressed his frustration over Western animal rights groups’ unjustified opposition to the elephant over-populated SADC countries’ proposals to trade in their stockpiled tonnes of ivory. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the journalist said, “We are landowners with elephants, rhino’s and other animals, but we are failing ourselves. How can we allow a person to close down our markets inviting poverty and we just sit back and continue to be beggars to the colonial masters? What is wrong with us?”