Namibia, being one of the three African countries canvasing for trade of ivory at the present, has a total of 72 tons in ivory with the total value of N$145 758 million in its possession, the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET), Pohamba Shifeta told The Villager.
Currently, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have vouched to fight for the preservation of ivory trade and Shifeta stressed that although Namibia respects the sovereign rights and position of Parties (countries) to UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and that of SADC member States, the country equally expects the same treatment of its sovereign rights over sustainable utilization of its natural resources.
“Revenue from regulated trade will, as previously, be managed through a trust fund and used exclusively for wildlife conservation and community conservation and development programmes within the elephant range. All revenue will be reinvested in wildlife conservation in Namibia, including rural community conservation programmes, and monitoring of the impact of trade will be supported. This will alleviate the pressure on national treasury allocation to funding wildlife programmes,” Shifeta said.
Shifeta stressed that Namibia remains committed to conservation of elephants and other species. Through the present conservation model, Namibia has experienced expansion of the elephant population from just over 7 500 in 1995 to over 22 000 at present. He added that in 2008, an amount of 7.2 tons of ivory were sold for a total of USD 1.2 million in revenue generated and invested in elephant conservation and community development programmes.
“Currently, the Namibian elephant population is listed in Appendix II with an annotation, while most such annotations in that appendix are enabling trade of such species, the annotation to the elephant populations of Namibia are constraining to trade. Therefore, Namibia, has submitted a proposal to the 17th Conference of Parties of CITES, seeking the removal of the annotation in its entirety in respect of its elephant population,” the Minister said.
With this proposal, Shifeta said, Namibia wishes to in future establish a regular form of controlled trade in all elephant specimens, including ivory, which is in accordance with the listing of species in Appendix II of CITES. Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe’s elephant population (Loxodonta Africana), are listed on the Appendix CITES II, which according to CITES lists species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
Neighbouring Botswana, being home to the world’s largest elephant populations strongly shows its displeasure with the ivory trade and has refused to support bids at the recent UN Conference to allow sales of ivory. Currently, animals listed on the CITES Appendix (I) have the highest level of protection and global trade in products derived from them is prohibited, except for when the purpose of the import is non-commercial, for instance for scientific research.
“Namibia sees the absence of trade as the greatest threat to elephant populations, stemming from the fact that elephants have in the past had no or very little direct value to rural communities, where so many elephants use land that people also depend on for farming. Elephants will only survive in the long term if they are more valuable to people in those communities than their damage to alternative forms of land use, i.e. subsistence farming. Resultantly, controlled ivory trade will directly benefit the survival of the species and whilst providing incentives for communities to continue valuing the presence of these animals, Shifeta said.