The noise Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola are making for wholesale changes in wildlife trade makes a lot of sense. Booming elephant herds of about 212 000 in Botswana, which holds the world’s largest population, are exerting tremendous pressure on wildlife sanctuaries.
At 80 000, Zimbabwe’s herd also far outweighs its carrying capacity. You only need to visit Hwange National Park to understand the gravity of the crisis at hand.
The grave consequence of this exponential growth in elephant herds is an ecological disaster in the form of human and wildlife conflict.
This is why Zimbabwe is rightfully angling to demand a moratorium on the ban in ivory trade at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa next month, where this argument would be at the heart of debate.
We hope that countries opposing trade in wildlife will see sense this time around to enable Zimbabwe and other countries affected by the ban to generate revenues from ivory sales and fund conservation programmes.
Governments are unable to allocate resources to fund wildlife conservation efforts due to pressing social and economic commitments.
The biggest challenge for Zimbabwe is that its technocrats seem to be talking to the uninitiated, who are ignoring their valid arguments in order to advance some hidden agendas.
It is absurd that countries that have wiped out wildlife in their backyards have the temerity of telling others to limit trade in their ivory, igniting rampant poaching in the process.
Restrictions in ivory and task trade have been in force for many years.
In the last 20 years, Africa has been losing 30 000 elephants per annum. During the same period, rhino populations have almost been wiped out by poaching syndicates in rhino range states.
We are still fortunate to have our elephant herds intact after high demand in Asia stimulated poaching.
Mindless killers have been lacing water sources with cyanide in Zimbabwe to kill elephants, with deadly consequences.
Other animals like vultures have been exposed to grave danger because they consume the toxic carcasses of butchered jumbos.
Instead of losing our animals to poachers, we might as well deplete them to sustainable levels, while benefiting communities around these animal sanctuaries and the nation at large.
In the event that Zimbabwe and its peers push through their cause in Johannesburg next month, that will only be the beginning of a bigger war to be won.
It would be a sad day for Zimbabwe if we are to have another headache in the form of chefs and those connected to them taking advantage of the lifting in the ban to amass wealth for themselves and their cronies while the majority of people wallow in poverty.
We have many examples where this has happened.
The Zimbabwe National Roads Authority is collecting millions of dollars in toll fees and yet our roads remain pothole-riddled, while an estimated US$15 billion of proceeds from the Chiadzwa diamond fields went missing.
We also all know what happened to the AIDS Levy.
We urge authorities to lay the groundwork now for measures to prevent profligacy in preparation for a favourable outcome that might emerge at the end of the deliberations in Johannesburg.
We dread to see funds generated from ivory trade degenerating into another Chiadzwa: Proceeds must be channelled towards conservation efforts and uplifting standards of living for all citizens.