- Says it is the world’s foremost elephant stronghold
- Slams Western media and pressure groups for misleading narrative
- Says it is ready to trade outside international treaty
Botswana and other SADC countries have threatened to quit the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) if the organisation declines their request to sell ivory stockpiled over years and to recognise two separate elephant species as recommended by science, The Business Weekly & Review has established.
Announcing this bold position at a press conference at Fairgrounds in Gaborone last week, the Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Dr Kabelo Senyatso, said Botswana intends to derive more economic value out of the wildlife industry in part by creating a value chain from elephant ivory.
“We are a powerful elephant stronghold,” Dr Senyatso told journalists. He said although the country spends more money on the safe keeping of ivory and mitigating the impact of elephant destruction compensating those affected, it does not benefit from the ivory. “We believe that there are opportunities in the elephant value chain, provided CITES permits us (to trade),” Dr Senyatso said.
He characterised CITES as emotional and for ignoring scientific data and evidence in its decisions and attacked Western media and pressure groups for peddling a narrative that elephants face extinction in Africa and that trade in ivory and hunting should be banned to protect the species. In response to a question, the DWNP Director emphasised: “Yes, Botswana is ready to withdraw from CITES, if need be. There is nothing stopping us from leaving CITES.”
However, he noted that the final decision to leave or not to leave CITES will be for President Mokgweetsi Masisi and that they have already made that recommendation to him as technical officers. Slated for November in Panama, the 19th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 19) will decide on the request to sell ivory stocks in SADC countries. At the same conference, the SADC ivory lobby will table a resolution for two species of African elephant, savannah and forest, to be separated.
“CITES has been failing to acknowledge (these two) elephant species,” Dr Senyatso said. “We are proposing two elephant species. If they agree, then there should be a reassessment of countries across appendices.” He emphasised that science has recognises the two species. Dr Senyatso noted that a decline in forest elephant numbers has been recorded in East Africa while the numbers have actually increased in southern Africa.
Meanwhile, the CITES Convention mentions three appendices under which animal species are protected. However, despite elephants being listed under Appendix l, which means their existence is threatened, Botswana is listed under Appendix ll because it has previously bargained that its elephants are not under any threat and are in fact so many that they cause tension between people and destroy crops. Appendix ll includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. According to Dr Senyatso, Botswana is home to nearly 150 000 elephants, making it the world’s foremost elephant stronghold.