Zimbabwe has commenced an international conference in an attempt to gain international support for its campaign to sell its seized ivory stockpile.
If the southern African country is not allowed to sell its 130 tons of ivory, which is estimated to be worth $600 million, officials have warned that it will withdraw from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.
The three-day conference began on Monday at Hwange National Park in southwestern Zimbabwe, the country’s largest wildlife park. Officials expect representatives from 16 African countries, as well as Japan and China, two major consumers of ivory, to attend the meeting.
Last week, envoys from the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada were led through heavily guarded vaults in Harare containing piles of elephant tusks in order to gain international support for legal ivory sales.
Many conservation groups are opposed to Zimbabwe’s attempt to sell the ivory, claiming that any sale of ivory encourages poaching of the pachyderms.
The conference “is sending a dangerous signal to poachers and criminal syndicates that elephants are mere commodities, and that ivory trade could be resumed, heightening the threat to the species,” said a coalition of 50 wildlife and animal rights organizations from across the globe in a joint statement issued Monday.
Southern African countries have twice been permitted to sell off their ivory stocks to Japan and China in 1997 and 2008 and those limited sales resulted in “a sharp escalation” in poaching across the continent, said the letter.
“Legalising the ivory trade, including by authorising another ‘one-off’ sale could have similarly disastrous consequences,” the groups said.
Zimbabwe argues that its elephant population is growing rapidly at between 5% to 8% per year, a rate it says is unsustainable. Zimbabwe says it desperately needs the funds from the sales of the ivory to manage its elephant population, which it says has grown to a “dangerous” size.
According to National Council for Motherhood and Childhood and Ministry of Solidarity reports, the alleged victims experienced psychological disorders as a result of the assaults.
On December 10, the public prosecutor launched an investigation after receiving a report from the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood about a social media account alleging that Al-Amin had assaulted girls living in his orphanage.
Before assaulting them, Al-Amin allegedly offered them money, gifts, and mobile phones, and threatened to beat those who refused his sexual advances.
To combat poaching, CITES banned the international ivory trade in 1989. In addition to prohibiting the sale of ivory, CITES imposed restrictions on the sale of wild elephants captured in Zimbabwe and Botswana in 2019, which pleased some conservationists but disappointed officials struggling to manage their overcrowded parks.
International syndicates fund poachers to kill elephants and saw off their ivory tusks, resulting in a thriving illegal trade. The ivory is then smuggled overseas, where it is in high demand for jewelry and trinkets.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, increased poaching and habitat loss have made Africa’s elephant populations more vulnerable.
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