from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
VICTORIA FALLS – HOSTS Zimbabwe downplayed the low attendance at the African Elephant summit held to enable the continent adopt a common position on elephant conservation, in the wake of a proposed global ban on ivory trade.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is advocating for a ban, which faces disapproval particularly in Southern Africa where some countries where overpopulation of elephants is disrupting ecosystems.
There is also conflict between humans and elephants amid water scarcity.
Six countries out of 19 countries that were expected at the summit in Hwange attended.
These are Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It could not be ascertained why the others could not send delegates.
The countries want to go to 19th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on CITES (CITES CoP19) in Panama in November.
Nqobizitha Ndlovu, the Zimbabwe Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, said despite the low attendance, the meeting had met its target preliminary, as the countries present hold 65 percent of world population.
“We called for this conference with the hope that we could invite few other African countries outside SADC (Southern African Development Community) with whom we differ in terms of conservation approach,” he said.
“Our intention was to find common ground to ensure that our elephants and communities are the winners after all is said and done,” Ndlovu said.
The minister said despite low attendance, the conference enabled the six countries to make progress in mapping the way forward for communities and for the African Elephant.
“The countries represented here hold up to 65 percent of the world elephant population, in my view this gathering qualifies as an authority in matters to do with elephant conservation,” he said.
Botswana is home of the world’s largest elephant population, close to 150 000. Zimbabwe has over 90 000 elephants against a carrying capacity of about 45 000.
By Thursday, participating states concurred on the need for CITEs to allow trade in ivory and allow participation of communities affected by climate change at COP meetings.
Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Auxilia Mnangagwa, who on Thursday officiated at the opening ceremony of the African Elephant Summit, expressed concern on lack of unity shown by Africa at various international fora especially the COP meetings.
“As we celebrated Africa Day (May 25), we are reminded of the greater need to foster unity of purpose in Africa among Member States,” she said.
Mnangagwa is convinced that through partnerships, collaboration and shared vision, the conservation of elephants would become relevant to the needs of society.
“Through this gathering a foundation for exciting engagement and collaboration has been reinforced for the benefit of the future generations,” she said.
– CAJ News