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Zimbabwe: Lobby groups push for legalization of ivory trade

Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Satosh Tanaka, left, and Tinashe Farawo, Zimbabwe National Parks spokesperson, right, hold an elephant tusk   -  
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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. -

Zimbabwe

A group of delegates at the African Elephant conference in Hwange, Zimbabwe are pressing for the legalization of Ivory to help in the control of their population.

At least 60 people have been killed by elephants in Zimbabwe since the start of the year, compared with 72 overall in the 2021 year.

Zimbabwe's conservation success story has had the unfortunate side-effects of heightening jumbo-human conflict.

With some 100,000 elephants, Zimbabwe has the world's second-largest population after Botswana and about one-quarter of the elephants in all of Africa.

More than half of those pachyderms live in and outside the unfenced Hwange, a wildlife park nearly half the size of Belgium, with some 14,600 square kilometers (5,637 square miles) of vegetation.

Elephants roam freely from Zimbabwe's sprawling and unfenced game reserves and it is common to find herds crossing or resting along the main highway from Hwange to the nearby prime tourist resort of Victoria Falls.

- Dangerous signal -

A collection of 50 anti-ivory trade organizations issued a statement warning that opening the ivory market would decimate the African herd, which in some regions is near extinction.

"The conference is sending a dangerous signal to poachers and criminal syndicates that elephants are mere commodities, and that ivory trade could be resumed heightening the threat to the species," they said.

But growing elephant herds pose real dangers to nearby communities.

Zimbabwe says 60 people have been killed by elephants so far this year, compared with 72 in all of last year.

"Governments of elephant range states are faced with social and political pressures on why elephants are prioritized over their own lives and livelihoods," Ndhlovu said.

- 'Reward not punishment' -

Zimbabwe's elephant population is growing at about five percent a year, reaching unsustainable levels.

"Our conservation methods are working and I believe that instead of being punished we should be rewarded," Fulton Mangwanya, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director told AFP.

He spoke on the sidelines of a conference in Hwange where the government is this week lobbying allies to push for legal ivory trade.

Zimbabwe, along with Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, wants the UN Convention on International Trade Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly referred to as CITES, to lift the ban on the trade in ivory.

They argue that scrapping the ban can help to better preserve the animals and bring economic benefit to local communities who live close to the animals.

Zimbabwe has a huge $600-million stockpile of ivory which it recently showed to ambassadors representing various countries including the European Union, China and Japan. It has urged EU diplomats to allow a one-off sale of the ivory.

The country's last official elephant census in 2014 counted more than 80,000, a figure now estimated at 100,000, which authorities say is three times more than capacity.

But some conservationists doubt the accuracy of the statistics and fear that lifting the trade ban would pose a threat to elephant populations.

America, along with EU countries and Britain remain opposed to lifting the ban while China and Japan are some of the countries in support.

International trade in ivory and elephants has been banned since 1989 under the CITES. One-off sales were allowed in 1999 and 2008, despite fierce opposition.

The Harare government has threatened to pull out of the convention if it doesn't have its way on ivory trading.

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