#CITES #COP18 ends amid withdrawal threats


(Posted 29th August 2019)

After suffering defeat after defeat at CITES are the Southern African sponsors of proposals to allow one off sales of ivory and other wildlife products clearly upset to a point, that at least two member states have openly raised the possibility of a withdrawal from the global wildlife convention.
The latest to do so was Namibia, represented in Geneva at CITES COP18 by a government minister.

There are countries that hold views that are not based on science. Instead of applying science they are just politicizing the whole matter,” Pohamba Shifeta, Namibia’s environment minister, told reporters in Geneva. “As the Southern African Development Community region, the region with the largest population of the Rhinoceros species, we will reconsider our staying in CITES if it is the case. We are going to have a meeting and we are going to make a statement.”
He then went on to say: “If CITES does not really help us to conserve our wild animals, but frustrating those that are doing good, I think there is no need for us to stay in CITES

SADC has 16 member states which include Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

Southern African countries have been angered by decisions taken at CITES this year. The global wildlife convention group refused, with two third majorities for that matter, to ease controls on elephant ivory sales and allow several nations to sell their stockpiles and banned the export of wild elephants outside of the range where they occur naturally after Zimbabwe sold the animals to zoos in China and other countries.

Namibia had wanted its white rhinoceros population to be downgraded to Appendix II which states that unlike on Appendix I, the animals are not threatened with extinction, but trade needs to be limited to keep their populations sustainable. The use of ground up rhino horn as a supposed cure for cancer in East Asia has led to a surge in poaching in South Africa and other countries and a global ban on trade. An illegal trade flourishes.

The threat to leave is, while legaly possible, seen as an empty one as even if SADC nations would depart from the convention, the rest of the world would still be bound by prohibition orders, leaving these countries to sit on their stocks with neither airlines nor shipping lines willing to accept such cargos and intended recipient countries also locked out of that trade, while they themselves are members of CITES.

Global conservation groups too will have a say and in fact have started to speak out already, in turn threatening to decampaign such countries which want to leave CITES and ‘troll‘ them on social and conventional media to the point of severely impacting their tourism industry.

With CITES COP18 ended is it now time to calm down, accept majority verdicts and perhaps follow Kenya’s example where over 105 tons of ivory and rhino horns were set alight three year ago by President Kenyatta, to make a very public 100 plus million Dollar statement that Kenya will not be part of any trading deal. The results, which poaching has continued, showed in Kenya’s tourist arrival numbers which have since significantly increased as the country is seen as a haven of conservation and protecting endangered species.

Fodder for thought!