Zimbabwe’s government sells stockpiled ivory to raise money for wildlife conservation
There is no great irony in Zimbabwe’s government selling stockpiled ivory to make some money to support wildlife conservation. In a country with ravaging inflation and continuing social unrest, preserving wildlife does not always get priority. Ivory is made from elephant tusks and often requires killing elephants to obtain. Hence, declining population of elephants around the world made ivory trade illegal in many countries. Poaching activity is still rampant in most developing countries, however. Today, Zimbabwe’s government announced the sale of 4 tons of stockpiled ivory for half-a-million US dollars with the permission from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This ivory comes from elephants that died from natural causes or were slaughtered to keep population in check. The money raised will help fund wildlife reserves but some fear the sales might make it easier for poachers to market illegal ivory.
Earlier this week, Namibia sold 7 tons and Botswana sold 44 tones of stockpiled ivory. The last legal ivory auction will take place in South Africa this coming Thursday, November 6th, where whopping 51 tons of ivory will be available for sale. Only these four African nations were allowed to sell off ivory legally.
Zimbabwean officials say they have sold almost 4 tons of ivory for over $450,000 and the money will go to the country's cash-strapped wildlife authorities.
Monday's sale in the Zimbabwean capital Harare is part of a series of elephant ivory auctions being held in the region for the first time in a decade.
Last year the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ruled that Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe could sell 108 tons of stockpiled ivory to approved Japanese and Chinese buyers.
Once known for its natural beauty and wealth of wildlife, Zimbabwe's economic crisis has left authorities battling to maintain the country's parks. Poaching is increasing as hungry Zimbabweans look for alternative sources of food.
CITES Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers, who witnessed the auction in Harare, also called for harsher punishment to deter ivory poachers.
"If punishment levels were commensurate with the crime, it would assist in reducing illegal poaching," the state-run Ziana news agency quoted him as saying.
Namibia last Tuesday sold more than seven tonnes of ivory for 1.1 million dollars, while Botswana auctioned 44 tonnes of ivory Friday for 7.1 million dollars.
The final and largest auction is scheduled for Thursday in South Africa, with 51 tonnes of tusks for sale.
The four countries are home to 312,000 elephants, and their government stocks of tusks came from natural deaths or the culling of herds to keep the population under control.