Zim sitting on ivory worth $55 million

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has 55,000 kg of ivory in its national storeroom.

Customs officials around the world seize tons of smuggled ivory every year.
Customs officials around the world seize tons of smuggled ivory every year.

The Authority’s spokesperson, Caroline Washaya Moyo, said raw ivory sales were expected to resume after the expiry of a nine year moratorium in 2017. “Currently we are selling ivory to only Cites-approved ivory manufacturers at a price of $250 per kg,” she said.

A Cites approved ivory auction held in 2008 saw ivory sold to the Chinese government for $175 per kg. It entered the market at $1,700 per kg, but current market prices for ivory in China range from $750-$7,000 a kg, depending on the quality. African ivory is considered the best.

Washaya Moyo said the ivory was collected from elephants that die from natural causes, problem-animal control and confiscation from poachers. Zimbabwe, together with Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, is pushing for greater trade in ivory to boost national revenues, but environmentalists are averse to the call, saying it would lead to the depletion of elephant herds.

In a report commissioned by Cites for its meeting in Geneva last week, Zimbabwean consultant Rowan Martin, outlined proposals for how a future trade might take place. While some conservationists have sympathy with lifting the ivory trade ban under certain circumstances, the report was criticised as flawed by most present.

Martin, who has campaigned for the ivory ban to be lifted as a way of protecting elephants from illegal poaching by providing consumers with ivory, came under strong criticism. Delegates from India to Kenya condemned the idea of legalising trade as encouraging further demand and poaching.

They argue that the most effective way to protect elephants is by: improving monitoring systems; intelligence-led enforcement in transit countries; and widespread public education of consumers in countries such as China. “Some Chinese think tusks are like milk-teeth – they fall out and regrow with no harm to the elephant,” says Richard Thomas from the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

More ivory was seized last year by customs officials around the world than at any time since a global ban was introduced in 1989. The escalating global trade has prompted calls from conservationists for the biggest market, China to shut down its legal domestic trade so that smugglers cannot use it to launder illegal ivory.

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