International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director-general Fulton Mangwanya told EU ambassadors to Harare that the country has 163,000 tonnes of ivory and 67 tonnes of rhino horns in vaults.
He estimated the value of the ivory at around $600 million.
“The burden of managing a stockpile that we cannot derive economic value, or plough back into the communities and conservation of the same species is quite a great pain to us,” he said.
“We kindly request the support of the EU for Zimbabwe to be allowed a once off sale of our national ivory stock,” said Mangwanya.
The EU diplomats were taken on tour of the vaults in Harare.
Mangwanya said if allowed, the funds would be used to benefit local communities living around animal conservancies.
The country can support up to 55,000 elephants but the population has more than doubled to 100,000, according to officials.
Elephants have so far this year killed 60 people, in a conservation success story that has led to increased conflict with humans.
But the plea was did not immediately garner support.
“Conservation and prevention of illegal wildlife trade is an international issue because of the involvement of criminal syndicates in illegal wildlife trade hence there is need to strengthen international cooperation,” the Swiss ambassador Niculin Jager responded on behalf of his colleagues.
Three years ago, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe — home to the world’s largest elephant population — asked for the right to sell ivory acquired through natural deaths, confiscations and culling.
But that demand was rejected by a CITES meeting in Geneva in 2019.