Fuzzy thinking just doesn't work in regards to elephant mangement.


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H&Hhunter
March 27, 2007, 06:24 AM
The Herald (Harare)
Harare

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in the region whose elephant population is ballooning to unsustainable levels, owing to its sound wildlife management and conservation policies.

According to a recent survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the country has 110 000 elephants yet its carrying capacity is 47 000. The continued elephant population growth, estimated to be at the rate of 5 percent a year, is exerting a lot of pressure on the environment and the ecosystem.

This has presented headaches to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which has to juggle the numbers of jumbos against the damage to the environment.

This, therefore, means something has to be done to control the elephant population explosion in the country and the Parks Authority has, over the years, resorted to culling and controlled trophy hunting.

But the jumbo population has nevertheless continued to outgrow the carrying capacity, posing danger not only to the environment, but to communities that live near game parks like Gonarezhou, Hwange, Binga, Gokwe and Kariba.

Hwange National Park covers 14 000 square kilometres but has a population of between 45 000 and 50 000 elephants.

Yet given this scenario, some countries, instead of applauding the conservation efforts by the parks authority and the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, are proposing that Zimbabwe's internal trade in ivory be banned by the forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference of parties meeting in the Netherlands in June.

On Monday, we reported that Kenya and Mali are pushing for the ban on elephant trophy hunting and internal ivory sales in Zimbabwe at the next Cites meeting.

We wonder what their motive is. We also wonder why Zimbabwe should be punished for following better conservation methods for the elephant.

Kenya failed to sustainably manage and protect its elephants from poachers in the 1980s to such an extent that they were almost wiped out. The same applies to Mali, whose elephant population is conservatively put at less than 1 000 elephants.

And the fact that Zimbabwe has over the years seen its elephant population ballooning to alarming levels vindicates the country against baseless arguments that allowing it to continue with its programmes of trophy hunting and culling would result in increased poaching activities.

Zimbabwe was the first country in Southern Africa to be given the green light by Cites to conduct internal ivory sales in 1997 after the downlisting of elephants from Appendix 1, which bars any form of trade in endangered species, to Appendix 2, which allows limited and controlled trade.

Instead of lobbying for a total ban on ivory trade, these countries should be pushing for Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries to be allowed to dispose of their stockpiles and plough back the proceeds into conservation programmes.

Zimbabwe should be allowed to cull its elephants to manageable levels and sell the ivory under strictly monitored supervised programmes.

This is what happened in 2002 when Cites allowed Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to collectively sell 60 tonnes of ivory in a one-off sale.

And this could be done again under strict supervision. Punitive measures such as a total ban in trade will not help anyone. What would happen to the 10 tonnes of ivory, mostly from natural deaths, that the Parks Authority is stockpiling if the Cites meeting accepts the proposals by Kenya and Mali?

The Parks Authority should, therefore, prepare a thorough and comprehensive response ahead of the Cites meeting, detailing the country's position regarding the elephant population.
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