No money to protect elephants

Zimbabwe has missed out on accessing money for elephant conservation programmes, due to its non-participation in the recent CITES committee meeting in South Africa.

A stockpile of ivory seized under CITES regulations.
A stockpile of ivory seized under CITES regulations.

Six African states were allocated money for conservation initiatives at the meeting in December 2011. The CITES fund was launched in August 2011 and has received approximately $250,000 in contributions from Germany, France and the Netherlands. During the three-day meeting, the members of the Committee: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa met with representatives from Germany and the Netherlands to allocate $150,000 to six elephant conservation projects, ranging from investigating regional illegal ivory markets to mitigating local human-elephant conflicts.

Poaching on the rise

According to Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, there has been a surge in elephant poaching countrywide. Waterholes have been poisoned, land invaders have been involved in poaching and trees are being chopped down for firewood, placing the animals at risk.

The current national elephant population is about 100,000 and of this Hwange National Park holds about 50,000 while the Zambezi Valley, Sebungwe and the South East Lowveld hold 30,000, 15,000 and 5,000 respectively. These figures are based on aerial surveys undertaken jointly by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and World Wide Fund for Nature.

Trophy hunting

To date, Zimbabwe has relied on two programmes for the sustainable utilization of elephants in the country: (i) non-consumptive (photographic, elephant rides) and (ii) consumptive (trophy hunting and management off-take). Consumptive utilization is based on an approved quota with the exception of problem animal control which cannot be predicted.

Trophy hunting, which annually utilizes 500 animals that are declared to CITES each year, takes place in the following designated places:

• State hunting safari areas – 145 animals

• Private land (mainly conservancies) – 115 animals

• CAMPFIRE in communal areas – 210 animals

• Forestry areas – 30 animals

No trophy hunting takes place in National Parks.

Management off take, unlike trophy hunting, takes place in any protected area where elephants occur, including national parks, and involves both trophy and non-trophy animals.

However, the trophies are not allowed to be exported. The ivory from such an initiative ends up in the central ivory stores at the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Head Quarters. It is properly recorded with a distinct serial number, area of origin, cause and date of mortality and size (length and weight of tusk).

The ivory is then sold on the domestic market through regular auctions to registered ivory manufacturers in line with 1997 CITES COP 10 Resolution which allowed Zimbabwe to engage in highly-controlled domestic ivory trade. Management off takes are for ecological reasons, to manage surplus animals.

Culling approved

In April 2007, prior to CITES COP 14 in The Hague, SADC Ministers responsible for wildlife management approved the Southern Africa Elephant Management Strategy which recognizes culling as one of the main tools for effective population control. However, in the event that the Authority needs to undertake culling, all the political, ecological and other considerations, including thorough stakeholder consultations, need to be met.

In preparation for a possible requirement to control elephant population through culling, the Authority has embarked on a training exercise for its staff. The training involves hunting, recovery and processing of elephant products and gathering of scientific data.

Post published in: Environment

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