Southern Africa threatens to quit wildlife trade monitor

Demand to sell ivory acquired through natural deaths, confiscations and culling was rejected by a majority of 101 votes. (AFP/File)
Updated 01 September 2019

Southern Africa threatens to quit wildlife trade monitor

  • The CITES treaty, created more than four decades ago, regulates trade in some 36,000 species of plants

JOHANNESBURG: Southern African nations are threatening to quit the global wildlife trade regulator after it refused to relax restrictions on trade in ivory and rhino horn and imposed a near-total ban on zoos taking African elephants captured in the wild.

Ties soured during this week’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva after numerous proposals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc were rejected.

Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe — home to the world’s largest elephant population — asked for the right to sell ivory acquired through natural deaths, confiscations and culling.

The demand was rejected by a majority of 101 votes.

The CITES treaty, created more than four decades ago, regulates trade in some 36,000 species of plants and animals and provides mechanisms to help crack down on illegal trade and sanction countries that break the rules. But members of the 16-nation SADC bloc accuse it of turning a blind eye to Africa’s problems.

“The result has been failure to adopt progressive, equitable, inclusive and science-based conservation strategies,” Tanzanian Environment Minister George Simbachawene told the Geneva meeting.

“Time has come to seriously reconsider whether there are any meaningful benefits from our membership to CITES,” he said.

Accusations

The ministers accused the regulatory body of bowing to animal rights groups and unreasonably prohibiting the trade of African wildlife and products rather than regulating it fairly.

“A great disappointment, shocking outcomes,” said Botswana’s Environment Minister Onkokame Kitso Mokaila.

“I think CITES has long passed its sell-by date,” he said, adding SADC needs “something else ... that speaks to the issues of today.”

No member has permanently quit the Convention since it was adopted in 1963. The largely aid-dependent SADC region hosts the lion’s share of Africa’s wildlife.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa blasted the decision not to relax ivory laws saying the money — estimated to have a combined value of $600 million — could fund conservation projects.

“They bar us from killing our animals for selling ivory, but they want us to protect them from being poached,” he protested.

‘Non-state players’

Namibian Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta said CITES was “increasingly becoming a forum dominated by non-state players with the agenda to divide and rule African states.”

“We are reconsidering our stay in CITES,” Shifeta said, suggesting regional and national talks could take place this year.

CITES’ refusal to overturn the international ban on ivory trade was, however, welcomed by conservationists.

Wildlife NGO Born Free’s head of policy, Mark Jones, told AFP that lifting it would have “seriously undermined” existing conservation efforts.

Poaching has decimated the world elephant population, which slumped in Africa from several million at the turn of the 19th century to around 400,000 in 2015.

Jones said devastated and vulnerable elephant populations would face “increased risk from poachers and traffickers who would not hesitate to use legal markets to launder illegal ivory into trade.”

He urged SADC countries to continue their membership and work with the international community to find solutions for species threatened by trade and trafficking.

Competition for resources is fierce, as growing human and wildlife populations increasingly encroach on each other’s space.


Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

Updated 50 min 14 sec ago

Jubilant cheers as Dubai begins one-year countdown to Expo 2020

  • Dubai prepares for eye-catching countdown on Burj Khalifa
  • Live performances from singer Mariah Carey and acclaimed Emirati singer and Expo 2020 ambassador Hussain Al-Jassmi

DUBAI: Crowds gathered at different locations in the UAE on Sunday night to mark its one-year countdown to Expo 2020 in October next year, with host emirates Dubai staging a spectacular concert, topped by a light projection on the iconic Burj Khalifa.

American superstar Mariah Carey was the star of the night, which also saw performances from regional artists including Khalifa, Shamma Hamdan, Abri and Funk Radius, Showcase and Jaysus Zain. The audience also grooved to a few Arabic tunes from Emirati singer Hussain Al-Jassmi.

A make-shift stage was set up at the Burj Park in Dubai’s downtown area to host the performances, while people also enjoyed a good view of the tallest building in the world. The countdown was facilitated by Emirati social media sensation Khalid Al-Ameri and Bollywood actress Shraddah Kapoor. 

A 3-minute firework display lit up the skies of Dubai as the crowd eagerly waited for Carey to appear on stage.

The 49-year-old singer sang her all-time favorite songs, including “Emotion,” “We Belong Together,” and a revival of the Motown classic “I’ll Be There,” to an enthusiastic audience who didn’t mind the heat and humidity at the outdoor venue.

The other six emirates also marked the occasion with free-for-all activities in venues such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, Ajman Museum, Umm Al Quwain Corniche, Al Qawasim Corniche in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah Fort.

The events, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Expo 2020 Director-General Reem Al-Hashimy said, will “offer a window into the once-in-a-lifetime celebration that awaits from October 20, 2020.”

“The next 12 months will see us put the finishing touches to ensure an exceptional World Expo,” she added, in a report by state-run WAM.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi featured YouTube sensation Sandra Sahi, as well as singers Stephon Lemar, Layla Kardan, the Emirati Trio.

Indian band ROOH, singer and pianist Clarita de Quiroz, Egyptian oud player Rami Zaki and other regional artists were celebrating the count down at Sharjah’s Al Marjaz waterfront.

While the Ajman Museum hosted Arabic fusion band, pop-rock musician Hydyy, Emirati soul singer Chakram, poet Storm Fernandes, artist Humaira Hussain and MC Mohammed Enaba.

The 6-month Expo 2020, to be held at a vast new site in the south of Dubai, will officially open on Oct. 20 next year, with organizers expecting an estimate of 25 million visitors.