Kasane — Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Mr Tshekedi Khama has expressed concern over China’s decision to ban ivory trade for a period of one year.
China, being the largest consumer of ivory, announced the ban in February this year.
Addressing reporters at a press conference in Kasane after the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference, Minister Khama said the one-year ban did not say enough about sustainability.”What worries me for instance, is what would determine the lifting of the ban? And what happens after a year,” he opined.
He said for the ivory trade to be eradicated completely, behavior must be consistent as anticipation of the ban being lifted might increase demand, consequently fuelling more wildlife poaching.
During the African elephant meeting on Monday, one of the presenters, Dr Tom Milliken of Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) noted that studies had shown a decrease in ivory seizures in China which he said leads one to wonder if there is really less ivory going into China or just weak law enforcement. He named China and Thailand as two of the biggest importers of ivory despite the decrease in seizures by both countries.
Regarding transit routes, the Minister noted that since Botswana does not control ports of entry as it is landlocked, they have pledged to take control and responsibility to address the problem right at home by ensuring that poachers are denied the chance to take ivory out of the country.
“Africa needs to take responsibility addressing this problem where it begins so we need to have the political will,” he noted.
Minister Khama emphasised that to show Botswana’s commitment to anti-poaching, an additional P48 million was added to his ministry’s budget this year. Asked about other countries questionable commitment to ending illegal wildlife trade, Khama answered “Those who are not committed I am afraid are in the wrong program as every country needs to stand and be counted,” he said.
He also noted that they can never be quite sure how much ivory each country has on their stockpile and as such can only depend on the information provided by that country. He however cautioned that this calls for transparency.
The Minister of Environment from the United Kingdom, Lord de Mauley said there is need for the Chinese media to take the message back to their country that a tusk of ivory means one or two dead elephants.
He however, said one of the positive outcomes of the conference was that they had raised the profile above ministers to head of states, noting that at the London conference, four Presidents were in attendance including Botswana, Malawian and Ugandan Presidents.
“Also the United Arab emirates confirmed that they had burnt 10 tonnes of ivory as a way of showing commitment towards this fight against illegal wildlife trade,” he said.
The conference concluded to strengthen law enforcement and exert pressure on the United Nations General Assembly to effectively address illegal wildlife trade at its 69th session.
Vietnam, which has been identified as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade has volunteered to host the next session of the conference late next year.