THE Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, has rubbished western proposals aimed at influencing CITES to effect a blanket restriction on the commercial trade of wildlife, saying the proposal smacks of imperialistic tendencies that seek to undermine the sovereignty of African states.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said this at the weekend while giving her media brief at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg where the CoP17 is taking place. She noted that it was sad that some western powers were failing to appreciate sustainable use of wildlife as a key pillar to successful conservation methods.
This is despite bare evidence showing that similar efforts have failed to achieve the desirable conservation targets. A point in case being Kenya which has lost 87 percent of its rhinos to poaching since effecting a ban on the hunting of the same species in 1977.
“In this regard, proposals that have been put forward by some member states that seek to restrict international trade in wildlife such as the African Elephant and African Lion defeat this noble conservation method. The proposals fail to take into consideration the important role that communities play in wildlife conservation,” Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
She added: “Some of the proposals tabled here at COP 17 seek to close domestic markets for ivory trade. This proposal is a clear infringement on the sovereign rights of nations. Domestic trade of wildlife species is outside the scope of the convention and should remain as such.”
“The preamble of the CITES Convention recognises that “Member States are and should be the best protectors of their own wild flora and fauna”. The principles of the convention should therefore be the overarching guideline in submitting proposals at CITES COPs.”
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri warned that should CITES rubber stamp the proposal, a calamity awaited member states with the largest populations of the African elephants.
“Communities need to continue realising benefits from sustainable wildlife management. Without meaningful benefits accruing to communities from wildlife utilisation and management, communities have little reason to protect and conserve wildlife. As such this may put the species that we wish to protect under severe stress from poaching and their survival will no longer be assured,” said the Minister.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri called for reason not emotions to prevail during the CoP 17. “Southern Africa has two thirds of the elephant population in Africa. Zimbabwe alone has 83 000 elephants within its ecosystems. Lions and Rhino populations in Southern Africa are also steady and growing in some areas.
“These populations are a clear indication that Zimbabwe and other Sadc countries have
successfully protected and conserved their wildlife resources. Some of this success we owe it to our communities, sound wildlife management frameworks, political will, and financing from our governments and from sustainable utilisation programmes.”
The president of the Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs, Chief Fortune Charumbira dramatically rubbished the west’s proposals likening it to the allegory “of a medical doctor who enters the hospital and issues a similar prescription to all patients therein without diagnosing their individual cases.”
During a answer and question segment, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri was asked on whether the Zimbabwean Government would continue to export live animals to China to which she responded: “As I speak to you before my desk is a request from China to buy yet another consignment of live elephants. We are yet to look at it. But what should be known is that it’s not China alone which has made such requests. There are plenty other countries that we shall name at the opportune time.”
An emotionally charged, Wilfried Pabst, a German businessman who owns Save Conservancy, took a swipe at animal rights groups lobbying for the restriction of commercial trade in wildlife describing them as “criminals soliciting donor money under false pretences.”
Meanwhile, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri also underscored the importance of the participation of rural communities in CITES. “Zimbabwe also believes that communities should be at the centre in sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources. Without community participation in wildlife conservation, all our efforts will not yield the desired results.
“As such communities as the major shareholders of the wildlife resources should have a voice in the deliberations and decisions made by the Conference of Parties to CITES. We therefore strongly advocate for the creation of the Rural Committee as part of CITES structure.” Herald