What is it about the number 19?
Covid-19 has brought death and misery to the world, claiming over 6.5 million lives around the globe and 2, 790 souls in Botswana; now COP 19 appears to pose a threat to livelihoods in Southern Africa.
Set for the Panamanian capital, Panama City, next month, the CITES Conference of Parties (COP 19) is expected to order a blanket ban on elephant hunting and ivory imports.
In an agenda that is giving countries in Southern Africa sleepless nights, the conference is likely to move elephants from appendix II to appendix I of CITES regulations, which protect such class of animals from being hunted.
Highlighting the impact such a decision, made in Central America over 11, 000km away- will have locally, Director of Ngamiland Coalition of Non-governmental Organisations (NCONGO), Siyoka Simasiko explained, “What it essentially means is that the hunting quotas which communities have been benefitting from through hunting safaris will be outlawed through CITES.”
Simasiku just returned from a five-day African wildlife consultative forum in Maputo, Mozambique, where issues surrounding sustainable use of wildlife and conservation were discussed, including the possible ban of trophy hunting.
“Many communities in other SADC countries will be affected by this ban,” he told The Voice this week.
Although the ban will also apply to hippopotamuses, this will not impact Botswana as the country stopped issuing hunting licenses for hippos back in 2014 to allow their numbers to recover. However, it will affect Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, were hippo hunting is currently permitted.
“The just ended forum was for us as SADC countries to meet, discuss priority action items in preparation for CITES among other matters of interest,” added Simasiku.
Hundreds of communities in SADC countries depend on wildlife related tourism, with the sector second to only diamonds in terms of Botswana’s GDP.
For communities in hard to reach areas, along Okavango Delta and Kgalagadi area, government introduced Community Development Trusts, which rake in Millions of Pula annually through tourism activities including hunting safaris. The income is used to provide basic needs and supplement deficiencies is such communities.
Reached for comment, Chairperson of Community Leaders network in SADC, Rogers Lubilo stressed Southern Africa is right to be worried, warning such a move would spell misery for them all.
“Indeed COP 19 is around the corner and we have noted with concern some maneuvers by other governments, primarily European governments, which are aimed at ensuring that there is trophy hunting ban especially from targeted countries in Africa. If successful, this will affect million of communities who depend on hunting and wildlife tourism in Southern Africa.”
Lubilo believes a ban would be counterproductive and cause more harm than good.
“It poses a great danger to conservation itself because sustainable use approach has been used over the last five years in Southern Africa to bridge the gap; to reduce human-wildlife conflict, to create incentives to rural communities and to create jobs. And also sustainable use has been used to actually champion conservation. Most of the habitat restoration of wildlife has recovered in areas where local communities were involved is sustainable conservation,” he pointed out.
Lubilo’s hope is that SADC governments will stand together and present a united front at COP-19, hopefully forming alliances outside its boundaries and ultimately vote in majority numbers against the ban.
“I am aware that our governments, through various ministries, are working together to ensure they present a strong message to the global world during COP-19 summit. Southern Africa has adopted an agenda of inclusiveness, community based resource management and their sustainable use is one of our approaches that we so much cherish!” he concluded.