African countries divided over ivory trade

In this hand-out photo released by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), received in London on January 4, 2019, a scientist drills an ivory sample in the WildGenes laboratory based at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland on November 7, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019

African countries divided over ivory trade

  • An illegal ivory market in Vietnam and other countries is feeding demand in China, which banned its domestic ivory trade, according to O’Criodain

JOHANNESBURG: Several African countries with some of the world’s largest elephant populations will push this year for looser controls on legal ivory trade, while another group of countries on the continent says more restrictions are the best way to curb the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks.
The dueling proposals reflect divisions within Africa over how to safeguard a species that has been killed in massive numbers by poachers over the past decade and to what extent elephant parts, including ivory, skin and hair, can be sustainably traded as commodities. They pit southern African countries including Botswana and Zimbabwe that say commerce will help them pay to conserve elephants against Kenya, Gabon and others that believe even limited trade fuels demand and drives up illegal killing.
The proposals were released by the office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. They will be discussed when member countries of CITES meet May 23-June 3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the last meeting in Johannesburg in 2016, CITES rejected appeals to relax an international ban on the ivory trade that has been in place for decades.
“There isn’t really any appetite in the international community to agree to this,” said Colman O’Criodain, a wildlife trade expert with the WWF conservation group. He said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that the Sri Lanka meeting should focus on enforcing anti-trafficking measures instead of engaging in “sterile debates” about whether to trade legally.
An illegal ivory market in Vietnam and other countries is feeding demand in China, which banned its domestic ivory trade, according to O’Criodain. Meanwhile, the main exit points for African ivory from the continent are the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the Tanzanian region of Zanzibar and to a lesser extent Maputo, Mozambique’s seaside capital, he said.
A southern African proposal said Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have about 256,000 elephants, or more than half of the total estimate for Africa. Protecting elephants as human populations increase and wildlife habitats shrink comes at a big cost, and a closely regulated trade in government-owned stocks of ivory will help to alleviate the burden, it said.
“CITES has acted as an inhibitor and not an enabler of progress,” the proposal said.
Zambia made a similar proposal, saying elephants are competing with people in rural areas for resources and that Zambians would be more tolerant if they see “economic returns earned from the sustainable use of elephant.”
The debate touches on sovereignty issues. Countries that want southern Africa’s elephants to be subject to tighter controls include Gabon, whose forest elephants have been heavily poached, and Nigeria, which has a very small number left. The southern African countries believe countries with their own problems, including weak law enforcement, shouldn’t impose policy on others.
Writing in Zimbabwe’s The Herald, columnist Emmanuel Koro said it was time for southern African countries to act in their “national interests” and consider refusing to go along with CITES-supported bans on the trade in ivory as well as rhino horn. Japan’s recent decision to leave the International Whaling Commission could serve as a guide, he suggested.
O’Criodain, the WWF specialist, cautioned against countries taking the view that “it’s their right to trade and that the consequences are other people’s problems.”


UK to end EU free movement immediately after Brexit

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

UK to end EU free movement immediately after Brexit

  • “Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the UK leaves the EU”
  • The change comes amid growing fears Britain is set to leave the EU without a divorce deal

LONDON: Britain said Monday it will immediately end freedom of movement for people from the European Union after Brexit on October 31, in a policy shift under Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the UK leaves the EU,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
She added the government planned “tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK” as part of the new hard-line stance.
“Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed,” the spokeswoman said.
The change comes amid growing fears Britain is set to leave the 28-member bloc without a divorce deal in two and a half months.
Around 3.6 million EU citizens already in Britain have been told to apply for “permanent settled status,” under an interior ministry scheme started by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.
So far only around one million have signed up for the status.
May’s government said in January that it would end free movement “as soon as possible” after a no-deal Brexit, but keep allowing EU arrivals “for a transitional period only.”
Legislation drawn up to deal with the issue is stuck in parliament in the House of Commons gridlock over Brexit.
Johnson has said he favors a skills-based immigration system post-Brexit, but Downing Street is yet to unveil full details.
Critics representing EU citizens claim he is trying to evade parliamentary scrutiny of his changed stance toward new arrivals after Brexit — and fear those already in Britain could get mistakenly caught out.
“Ending freedom of movement abruptly on Oct 31st will lead to mass discrimination against potentially over 2 million EU citizens,” the3million lobby group said on Twitter, calling the move “reckless.”