Govt must stop wildlife exports: Activist

The government of Zimbabwe must craft legislative measures which will bring to a halt the export of wildlife especially elephants, a natural-resource activist has said.

Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) director, Farai Maguwu, says the trading of elephants in Zimbabwe – in accordance with a CITES report – remains high because the animals are not yet “threatened with extinction.”

In May last year, after years of denying that trade of elephants was taking place between Zimbabwe and China as well as the United Arab Emirates, the government admitted that between 2012 and 2018, the country had sold 97 baby elephants to China and Dubai, raking in US$2.7 million-claiming that the proceeds would be used in the animals’ conservation efforts.

“According to the CITES, trading in live elephants is not banned for Zimbabwe. This is a dangerous position taken by CITES because wildlife don’t have to be threatened by extinction for them to be protected,” said Maguwu.

“CITES acknowledges that “international trade in live elephants, especially when it takes the animals out of their natural range, is a very sensitive issue that generates expressions of public concern.”

The activist said CITES must come out strongly against the trade in live animals rather than merely declaring it a sensitive issue to the public.

“In Zimbabwe, the public outrage partly emanates from the dubious manner in which the government and Zimparks operate. The exports have been shrouded in secrecy and lack of transparency regarding the benefits accruing to the country and the general citizens,” he said.

Maguwu added that wild animals are a public good, whose conservation should be everyone’s responsibility.

“Majority of Zimbabweans have expressed outrage at the practice of selling wildlife to other countries. Selling wildlife doesn’t make economic sense either. Annually, tens of thousands of tourists visit Zimbabwe to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Selling the same wildlife which gives them reason to visit Zimbabwe is self-defeating as the would-be tourists will rather view these from the comfort of their countries.”

Maguwu suggested that as a means to fight against poaching there was a need to revive the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) project and ensure that locals are involved in the management of natural resources which include wildlife.  

He urged the government to also craft human-wildlife conflict policies which will assist to address the concerns of communities arising from their coexistence with animals.

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