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Some African countries want to tackle the taboo of wildlife. Whether to start selling ivory again.



Merle's hunter, a semi-automatic weapon over his shoulder, definitely didn't appreciate my question.

We were in Boma in South Sudan, near the border with Ethiopia, some of the most remote deserts on the continent.

During the brutal war with the North, which continued from the early 1980s to 2005, both countries had wiped out much of the wildlife to supply their fighters and raise money. This war is now over, but the slaughter with wild animals has continued.

Zebra, giraffe, elephants, white-winged cob (antelope species) – all considered fair game.

"Look," he said, clearly irritated, pointing to my belly, and then his, "you're fat. But I'm weak. If you were weak like me, then you would shoot and eat animals."

I think about this conversation often. [1

9659007] This week, representatives from around the world gathered in Geneva for the CITES Convention.

CITES is the contract that governs the international trade in endangered wildlife products – trade worth billions.

The most controversial issue for discussion is the trade in ivory.

There is currently a ban on international trade in ivory; the last one-off sale was authorized in 2007.

And there is a serious and growing rift in the issue among African countries.

  Media members gather around the dead elephant corpse in Chobe, September 19, 2018

The countries of East and North Africa wanted to continue the ban and further protect the continent's elephant population – they are supported by many western countries and environmental groups.

The South African countries insist on the sale of their valuable ivory stocks.

"Tell me, why would you have an asset that has no value? This is the main question. If humans are to care for our wildlife, there must be value attached to it. Otherwise, we're sitting on a delayed bomb with a delay. ", said Kizo Mokayla, Botswana's environment, wildlife and tourism minister.

We were there to report on the resumption of elephant hunting in Botswana, a move strongly criticized in the West. Mokaila didn't have much time for environmental groups abroad.

"It's good to be a critic from the comfort of your home," he said.

The point he was trying to make – much like Merle's hunter – was that this perspective was important in the conservation debate. [19659002] A tourist photographing a herd of elephants from his Land Rover to share on Instagram has a very different experience than a farmer tweaking his crop from a rough bull elephant the size of a truck.

The governments of South Africa point to their relatively stable populations of elephants and say that ivory sales will benefit people and preserve profits.

Others claim that it is not so simple.

"I do not accept the argument made by Botswana and others. Ivory sales have never been used by local communities in the past. This will not be of any use to them in the future. It's just a big lie, "says Paula Kahumbu, a well-known Kenyan conservationist.

  Botswana is considering turning elephants into pet food and removing the ban on hunting

She also claims that the picture of elephant numbers across the continent is even worse. poaching in the state, environmentalists say between 2007 and 2014, the number of elephants in the savannah dropped by at least 30%, according to the remarkable Big Elephant Census published in 2016.

Poaching levels seemed to reach their highest in 2011, but they are still at unacceptable levels. Richard Thomas of Traffick, the group that monitors CITES poaching.

Most surprisingly, perhaps the ban on ivory that China installs in early 2018 has no effect. Chinese citizens are still one of the largest consumers of ivory products.

"Now travelers from China are just buying their ivory outside of China," Thomas said.

Ultimately, based on the Geneva vote, CITES will maintain the status quo of elephants and ivory. And the governments of East and South Africa are unhappy with this result.

They may not agree with the way they do it, but all conservationists agree that without buying from the community, elephants and other species are probably doomed to be restricted.

"Where you have situations where wildlife is of no use and is actually competitive to humans, then I think the forecast is pretty bad," said John Scanlon, former general secretary of CITES, who is now the envoy of African parks.

He said poaching had to be overcome, but the conflict between humans and animals and competition for land was the greater long-term threat.

Conservative population in Africa would be more than two billion in the next thirty And if it comes to people or animals first – the choice for government is simple.

But responsible governments do not want to make that choice. But for Botswana, who lives next to Eden, they are still in poverty. We need to ensure that communities receive these benefits, "says Makaila, the Minister of Botswana.

Kahumbu, from Kenya, agrees.

"It will be a rocky road, but it can be done," she said, adding that more African conservationists need to be recognized for the perspective they bring to their communities.

I am reminded of another conversation I had in Kenya a few years ago.

I asked an elder of Masai what he thinks of Westerners, telling their communities not to hunt lions as part of the traditional rite of passage to adulthood.

"Have there been lions in Europe?"

"Yes, there was," I said. "

" Where are they now? "He replied.


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