A serious policy disagreement is taking shape amongst members of the East African and South African blocs, on the recent proposal to legalize ivory trade.
The proposal is being floated by mostly southern African countries, who argue that revenues from the sale of the stockpile would help a lot in conservation.
East African countries however, are worried that opening ivory trade will increase poaching of the African Elephants and Rhinos which should be declared as an endangered species.
The countries pushing for the trade are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique, who want to sell off their ivory and rhino horn stockpiles.
While addressing the media at the AU-UN Africa Wildlife Economic Summit at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, President Emerson Mnangagwa urged the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to allow them sell the ivory and also guide them on how to trade legally.
“We have 82,000 strong heads of ivory in store which can earn us 600 Million US Dollars. The Money will go back to develop communities living near national parks and also maintain the parks,” he said.
President Mnangagwa also revealed that if they are allowed to trade, the revenue they get will fund their conservation efforts for the next two decades.
This debate is expected to become more passionate during CITES impending summit in August where the countries are expected to make a formal request again after denial of the same two years ago.
Justus Karuhanga, a Tourism Advisor in Uganda said the country does not have enough elephants to join the trade.
“We just have few elephants and we have to conserve them” Karuhanga said.
Currently Uganda alongside 28 other African nations have applied to have the African elephant elevated to appendix one of protected animals, which means enhanced protection measures.
Several conservationists are warning that allowing the sale of ivory could accelerate extinction these animals.
Pat Awori a director at Pan African African Wildlife Conservation Network argues that it is not possible to have such an arrangement because the elephant numbers cannot sustain such trade.
“The ban on ivory trade was put in place when elephant populations declined significantly from 170,000 to less than 20,000 in just over ten years,” she said.
She adds that that since elephants cannot die fast enough to sustain the demand that will have been created, the other option will be poaching.
Southern Africa has over half of all elephants in Africa.
Yvonne Higuero, the secretary general of CITES says all the proposals are put to a vote and 183 member nations vote with two-thirds majority carrying the day.