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KAZA-TFCA States Renew Withdrawal Calls from CITES


At the 2024 Heads of State Summit for the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) in Livingstone, Zambia, member states renewed their calls to withdraw from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This demand stems from repeated denials of permission to sell their abundant ivory and other wildlife products.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Issues Discussed at the 2024 Summit
  2. Causes of the Wildlife Product Trade
  3. Measures Needed to Tackle Wildlife Crime

Key Issues Discussed at the 2024 Summit

The KAZA-TFCA Initiative
  • Geographical Scope: The KAZA-TFCA spans five southern African nations: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, along the Okavango and Zambezi river basins.
  • Conservation Land: Approximately 70% of KAZA land is under conservation, comprising 103 wildlife management areas and 85 forest reserves.
  • Elephant Population: This region harbors over two-thirds of Africa’s elephant population (approximately 450,000), with Botswana (132,000) and Zimbabwe (100,000) holding significant portions.
Ivory Trade and Human-Wildlife Conflicts
  • 2022 Conference of Parties: Southern African countries advocated for legalizing the ivory trade to finance conservation and reduce human-wildlife conflicts, but their proposal was rejected.
  • Rejection Reasons: The proposal was accused of prioritizing anti-trade ideologies over scientific conservation methods.
Economic Impact of CITES Restrictions
  • Economic Pitfalls: Delegates emphasized the economic disadvantages of existing CITES restrictions, advocating for the sale of wildlife products to highlight elephant mortality rates and the loss of economic potential from ivory stockpiles.
  • Funding for Conservation: The ban on ivory and wildlife product trade affects conservation funding, as revenue from sales could support wildlife management.
  • Scientific Evidence vs. Political Agendas: Decisions are argued to be based more on populism and political agendas rather than scientific evidence, undermining CITES’ effectiveness in promoting sustainable conservation.
Appeals and Responses
  • Exiting CITES: The summit featured renewed appeals to exit CITES, suggesting it could prompt CITES to reconsider or empower KAZA states to manage their wildlife resources autonomously.
  • Trophy Hunting Restrictions: In response to increased restrictions on trophy hunting imports by Western countries, Zimbabwe and other KAZA states are exploring alternative markets, particularly in the East.
  • Trophy Hunting Definition: Trophy hunting involves selectively hunting wild animals, often large mammals, to obtain body parts like antlers or horns, which serve as symbols of achievement or for display.

Causes of the Wildlife Product Trade

Organized Crime and Illegal Trade Dynamics
  • Criminal Networks: Involves organized crime in remote operations like elephant and tiger poaching, merging with other criminal networks and exploiting power dynamics, illicit weapons, and money laundering channels.
  • Market Scarcity: When legal sales decline, illegal traders find new ways to continue selling products, such as rare animals or endangered species trophies, making illegal markets more attractive to buyers.
Socioeconomic and Cultural Factors
  • Economic Pressures: While large criminal groups may dominate some trafficking, many impoverished individuals engage in poaching to make ends meet.
  • Cultural Significance: In some regions, poaching is driven by cultural traditions. For example, in the Chinko reserve in the Central African Republic, elephant hunting symbolizes cultural heritage, courage, and masculinity.
Legal Market Complications
  • Legal Market Confusion: Legal markets for certain wildlife products (e.g., Lao PDR permits trade in bear bile) make it difficult to distinguish between legally and illegally sourced products.
  • Major Legal Market: Japan represents the world’s most significant legal ivory market, adding complexity to efforts to curb illegal trade.
Corruption and Ineffectiveness of Controls
  • Bribery and Corruption: Wildlife trafficking is facilitated by bribery at inspection points and higher-level influence on permit issuance and legal decisions, undermining anti-trafficking efforts.

Measures Needed to Tackle Wildlife Crime

Reducing Demand
  • Illegalize Possession and Trade: Make the possession or trading of goods derived from illegally obtained wildlife illegal to reduce demand.
  • Support Anti-Poaching Efforts: Direct funds to agencies that protect wildlife, such as park rangers and anti-poaching teams.
Education and Awareness
  • Public Education: Educate people about the consequences of wildlife trafficking and the value of wildlife to lower demand for illegal products.
Scientific and Economic Collaboration
  • Scientific Review: Conduct independent scientific reviews to assess the sustainability of potential ivory trade from KAZA countries.
  • Collaborative Efforts: CITES and KAZA countries could collaborate to explore alternative income sources for conservation, such as promoting ecotourism and carbon offset programs.
Best Practices and Successful Initiatives
  • TRAFFIC and WWF: TRAFFIC’s technical expertise supported a WWF campaign in Thailand, significantly reforming Thai legislation and nearly eliminating the domestic ivory market.
  • Domestic Ivory Bans: In China, WWF and other NGOs played crucial roles in implementing a domestic ivory ban.
  • Destroying Stockpiles: Gabon, Congo, and the USA have destroyed confiscated ivory stockpiles to prevent their return to the black market and publicly condemn ivory trade and poaching.

-Source: Down To Earth

June 2024