HARARE (Bernama) – The Zimbabwe government has defended its decision to sell elephants to other countries, saying it is reducing the population which has far exceeded the carrying capacity of its national parks and which is creating ecological disorders.
The National Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe has raised the red flag over the growing elephant herd which is estimated at over 100,000, or 30,000 more than the carrying capacity of the game reserves.
It is expected that more than 60 elephants will be sold to buyers in countries including China, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), sparking an outcry from animal rights groups in and outside the country.
However, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, who has promised to issue a full statement on the issue, noted in a terse statement here Wednesday that people were simply politicking over the matter.
“I will deal with this matter judiciously weighing both sides, the tourism side and the environment side and issue an appropriate statement,” he said.
“At face value, it does look like a lot of politicking. A lot of international politicking around this issue, clearly it is not a secret that our habitat is not designed to carry too many elephants.”
Mzembi said Zimbabwe had an over-population of elephants and selling them was one of the ways of reducing the numbers. “You can cull, you can sell them with the permission and compliance to international treaties to other countries that offer appropriate habitats,” he said.
The Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (Cites), the global regulator of trade in ivory and other elephant products allows such trade.
Mzembi said Zimbabwe was unable to reduce its elephant herd through trophy hunting because of a ban imposed on trade in the country’s ivory by a number of countries.
While CITES in 2007 imposed a nine year moratorium on sale of ivory to protect elephants, the United States and the European Union have also separately imposed bans on trophies from Zimbabwe. As a result Zimbabwe has rising stockpiles of ivory which it is failing to dispose of.
Mzembi said the bans amounted to imposition of sanctions on the country.
He also said that selling the elephants would allow the country to mobilise funds for its efforts to conserve wild animals.