Zimbabwe to pull out of CITES?
May 18, 2022
Zimbabwe, which is sitting on more than 136 tonnes of ivory and rhino horns
worth about US$600 million, is prepared to operate outside the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) if the organisation
continues to make it impossible for the country to fully benefit from its
In a post-Cabinet briefing in Harare yesterday, Environment, Climate,
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said
conservation decisions should be scientifically-based and not politically
"We are clear that we are not going to CITES to beg them. We are going to
CITES to present our strong position, a position which we are willing to
defend, even if it means being outside CITES
"We are there in CITES to share our success stories for the benefit of
those countries who want to also experience the successes in the
conservation that we have experienced; not to be lectured on how we
conserve our wildlife," he said.
Minister Ndlovu said the trade in ivory was a sticky one and should be
cleared. He pointed out that if CITES is not in a position to finance
conservation in African countries with excess wildlife populations, then
"wildlife should finance itself".
He indicated that in the case of Zimbabwe elephant populations are growing
at a rate of between five and eight percent, which is unsustainable, with
the next five years being particularly crucial as wildlife populations face
"All possibilities of us selling our excess live elephants to those who
want to populate their areas have been cut under CITES.
"They have introduced an amendment to the current CITES provisions, which
says we can only sell to appropriate and acceptable destinations, literally
meaning we can only sell to the African countries most of whom have these
elephants in abundance," he said.
Minister Ndlovu said despite growing populations, Zimbabwe will continue
defending its wildlife heritage.
"But when we have a chance to generate revenues to support conservation
CITES comes and they close that window," he said.
"We are left with limited choices. If this CITES is not decisive on this
critical matter, we will be left with no choice than to either go the
culling way or may be consider engaging our affairs outside CITES."
His remarks come as Zimbabwe prepares to host the African Elephant
Conservation Conference at Hwange National Park next week.
On Monday, Western countries' ambassadors toured the Zimbabwe National
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) ivory stockpile in
Harare to get an appreciation of the situation on the ground.
"We thought it is important that we need, mainly as African ministers of
environment, to exchange notes on how we
can continue on our conservation trajectory; and also how we can tackle
other critical issues," said Minister Ndlovu.
The conference, which will see 150 participants, including government
ministers from 16 African countries, diplomats and other non-state players,
chiefs and local community representatives attending, is primarily meant
to discuss and prepare for the CITES 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19),
scheduled for November 2022 in Panama, Central America.
"So, among the key outcomes that we are looking at, really, is a position
that we would take to CITES from Africa on how conservation should finance
itself. It doesn't make sense that as a country we have a holding capacity
of 45 000 elephants, and are currently sitting on close to 90 000 elephants.
"When these elephants are dying due to natural attrition and other reasons
we only stockpile, but that stockpile of ivory cannot be ploughed back to
support our conservation; even when we have gone through two years of
Covid-19 which has significantly reduced the revenues from tourism.
Minister Ndlovu said at the conference they will exchange notes and come up
with an African position in favour of conservation, and take their fight to
CITES as a united front, as anything short of that was not in support of