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.


Decreasing purchasing power pushes Turks toward ‘Syrian gold’

An employee displays gold bars at a Korea Gold Exchange shop in Seoul on July 30, 2020. Virus uncertainty combined with China-US tensions has sent gold soaring nearly 30 percent this year. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 3 sec ago

Decreasing purchasing power pushes Turks toward ‘Syrian gold’

  • Economist Umit Kumcuoglu said the increasing use of lower-alloy “Syrian gold” mainly derives from the need to preserve status and tradition, and would not produce a significant impact on the local economy because it was not a counterfeit product

ANKARA: The escalating price of gold in Turkey, in tandem with the global market and the decrease of purchasing power, has led to an influx of lower quality products from Syria.
One, an imitation known as “Syrian gold” due to its popularity with Syrian jewelers, has gone mainstream, having emanated from the jewelry markets of the southern city of Hatay on the Syrian border.
One gram of gold currently costs 437 lira ($62) in Turkey, up by almost two-fifths since January. Having reached near unaffordable levels, the prices have pushed people to turn toward metals with lower values for things such as wedding ceremonies, where pinning 22-karat gold coins and sets of gold jewelry on couples is a Turkish tradition.
Economist Umit Kumcuoglu said the increasing use of lower-alloy “Syrian gold” mainly derives from the need to preserve status and tradition, and would not produce a significant impact on the local economy because it was not a counterfeit product.
“In southeastern tribes, buying gold for wedding ceremonies is an established tradition, and people are inclined to continue this practice amid decreasing purchasing power due to the coronavirus disease outbreak and devaluation conditions in the country,” he told Arab News.
However, according to Kumcuoglu, the ongoing economic challenges, and especially skyrocketing inflation, could push some people to produce counterfeit gold in the future.
Turkey’s central bank became the world’s biggest official-sector buyer of gold in June, according to International Monetary Fund figures. In a bid to support the Turkish lira amid currency concerns, the bank increased its reserves by 890,000 ounces to a record level of 21.28 million in May.
As per the figures published by the World Gold Council, total central bank gold purchases were 139 tons in the first four months of 2020, with the lion’s share of these, 111 tons, coming from Turkey.