SADC moves to legalise ivory trade

The Southern African Development Community this week announced intentions to move forward to legalise the trade of ivory products, thus protecting the sovereign right of three of its member states who have in the past advocated a legal but controlled ivory trade.
The 15 member bloc said in a statement released earlier this week “[the] Southern African Development Community, as the affected region with 70% of the world’s population of African elephants, will now have the opportunity to exercise the rights of member countries in terms of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). The region will also be able to pursue the possibility of submitting future proposals to CITES and request approval to sustainably utilise designated elephant ivory stocks through domestic or international markets.”
The SADC members added, “During the discussions, it was clearly put forward that the Design Making Mechanism was part of a package negotiated in good faith by the Southern African Development Community and its partners in 2007. This package included a nine-year moratorium, which ends in 2017, on the submission of proposals to trade in ivory, applicable only to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.” It also covered the development of the African Elephant Action Plan; the continued implementation and consideration of outcomes of the Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) and the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). Finally, it addressed the development of a Decision Making Mechanism (DMM) by 2013 at the 16th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.
South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe recently moved to legalise the trade of ivory products, a move blocked unsurprisingly by Botswana and bizarrely by Mozambique which has found itself in the midsts of a poaching crisis, and Angola, which is making strides to block the sale of ivory products in its informal markets.
This prompted South Africa to end discussions on the implementation of a Decision Making Mechanism that would guide the process for future trade in designated stocks of ivory. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has argued that the consultations South Africa has ended infringed on the sovereign rights of its member states. “This brings to a conclusion a lengthy process that was hampering the rights of SADC countries to sustainably use the well-managed growing elephant population for the benefit of local communities in the interest of the conservation of this iconic species.”
“SADC will continue to work with all parties in an effort to develop a new approach to regulate the legal and sustainable trade in ivory. This approach will be for the benefit of conservation of the species and the socio-economic development of local communities who remain critical in the quest to conserve the African elephant for future generations,” the statement concluded.
South African president Jacob Zuma has come out in strong support of the proposed move to legalise the trade of ivory products. Speaking at the opening ceremony of COP 17, he said, “It is also important for all to remember that natural resources do not only sustain livelihoods of communities.
They are also critical in promoting economic development. Examples of this include the lawful trade in wildlife, including the practice of hunting, which is criticized by many.”