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Malawi against lifting of ivory trade ban

By Peter Kanjere:

The Department of Parks and Wildlife has said Malawi does not subscribe to Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe’s proposal sent to Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (Cites)—global authority that protects endangered animal species—to lift the ban on registered stockpiles of ivory in their respective countries.

Much as the said countries have a right to push for the sale of their stockpiles of ivory, doing so could be a recipe for increased illegal poaching in countries such as Malawi, the department’s director, Brighton Kumchedwa, said Monday.

“We do not subscribe to that because this type of trade could have an impact on other countries that are not involved [in the sale] as it can fuel poaching in other countries. They, unlike ourselves, probably have huge stockpiles of ivory but we have a small population of elephants and we are in the process of rebuilding them,” Kumchedwa said.

Malawi’s population of elephants has declined from around 4,000 a few years ago to 2,000 and its stockpile of ivory, usually seized from illegal traders, is over 2,000 tonnes. Malawi is seen as a conduit for illegal ivory trade.

He made Malawi’s stance plain yesterday when The Daily Times asked for his reaction to the four countries’ proposal as reported by Zimbabwe’s State-owned The Herald newspaper edition of yesterday.

The four countries are pushing for the lifting of the ban ahead of their participation at the 71st Cites Convention scheduled for Colombo, Sri Lanka, in June. Malawi will also send a delegation to the convention.

“Cites has acted as an inhibitor and not an enabler of progress. The Conference of the Parties has repeatedly discounted the importance of the southern African elephant population and its conservation needs against other regions in Africa,” reads part of the countries’ proposal.

“These programmes are being undermined by arbitrary decisions by Cites that remove rather than create incentives for conservation. The proponents can no longer accept that their working conservation models are undermined by an international organisation that ostensibly recognises that ‘peoples and states are and should be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora’; or ‘that commercial trade may be beneficial to the conservation of species . . . or to the development of local people when carried out at levels that are not detrimental to the survival of the species in question.”

The Herald reports that Zimbabwe, home to the world’s second largest population of 80,000 elephants behind Botswana’s 165,000, fetched $500,000 from a one-off authorised sale of 3,700 kilogrammes of ivory to Japan and China on November 1 2008. Zimbabwe’s current stockpile of ivory is 70 tonnes.

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