Zimbabwe will lobby for the lifting of an international ban on ivory sales, saying a controlled marketing system would allow the government to raise money to combat illicit poaching and for conservation programs.
The safeguarding of “Zimbabwe’s elephants is wholly dependent on establishing regular open-market sales of elephant ivory to fund management and enforcement actions,” the government said in a paper that will be presented at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, scheduled for September in neighboring South Africa.
Zimbabwe says its elephant population, estimated at 84,000, is twice what can be supported by available food and land. The country, which is grappling with an economic crisis, said in February it raised $1 million from selling elephants to China, where it will continue exporting wildlife as part of conservation efforts.
“Between 2002 and 2014, Zimbabwe is estimated to have lost 439 metric tons of ivory worth $226 million to illegal hunting,” according to Zimbabwe’s CITES proposal seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the nation’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. “Zimbabwe views this as a direct result of the ivory trade ban. The country’s current stockpile of ivory weighs about 70 tons and is worth an estimated $35 million.
National parks, which cover about 11 percent of Zimbabwe’s total land area, are surrounded by “hostile people who are trying to recover their wasted investment in elephants,” according to the report. The ban has removed the incentive to protect wildlife, it said.
The government in November said it would deploy soldiers at the country’s game parks to combat poaching, which resulted in the deaths of 77 elephants due to cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park.