Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has described the just-ended Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of Parties COP17 as a battleground between the ideologies of preservation and conservation. A battleground in which Namibia faced serious challenges to its conservation model that has, since independence, seen many successes.
Nevertheless, Namibia emerged victorious from the CITES battleground. “In brief we, together with our SADC allies, go back into plenary having held firm on our deeply rooted belief that our conservation models are succeeding, and have managed to get the global community to recognise this,” said Shifeta.
To start with, the motion on hunting trophies was strengthened to recognise its important contribution to conservation when well regulated, as it is in Namibia, he said.
According to Shifeta, the motion to secure a stronger voice for communities, who are arguably the most important partners in Namibia’s conservation efforts, was deferred to an inter-sessional discussion and will be brought up at the next Conference of Parties.
In the case of the pangolin, which has been transferred from Appendix II to I, he said: “With this transfer to Appendix 1 our pangolin population is more protected. Therefore, the results of this conference do not affect Namibia negatively.” He added that the Namibian pangolin’s survival is threatened by illegal catching and trading.
“We will continue to focus our efforts on its conservation and also enhance our efforts to catch the criminals involved in this trade.”
The other good outcome is that Namibia together with Niger, Congo and Ethiopia were elected as CITES Standing Committee members representing Africa.
The main discussions concerning Namibia have been those surrounding elephant, lion, pangolin, hunting trophies, the ivory trade, domestic ivory market and community representation at CITES.
During the plenary Namibia proposed a removal of restrictions in the form of an annotation linked to the elephant population, which is listed in Appendix II, as well as a decision-making mechanism for future trade in ivory. Further, he noted, there was also a proposal by the elephant coalition to uplist the Namibian elephant population, which Namibia vehemently objected to, among others, to Appendix I.
“All those proposals were not adopted at the committee level. A number of African countries proposed a complete closure of all domestic ivory markets globally. Equally, Namibia strongly objected by raising a formal procedural motion to this proposal on the basis that it did not meet the criteria and legal requirements,” he explained.
He said the proposal on the global closure of all domestic ivory markets was rejected in its original format, but rather that markets linked to illegal trade and poaching be closed.
“Since our elephant population will remain on Appendix II and no annotation was removed or added, nothing has changed. We will continue trading in all specimens we were allowed to trade in before this conference,” he said.
According to him, the proposal on the African lion by some African countries led by Niger that it be moved from Appendix II to I was also rejected, and it was therefore retained on Appendix II.
“In this case, the status quo remains and Namibia will continue with sustainable use to ensure the survival of the lion in the wild,” he said.
He said the only change would be that no commercial trade in lion bones from Namibia would be allowed, which is a blessing to Namibia.
Shifeta said Namibia’s conservation model has clearly shown that it works.
“This is all underpinned by a network of private, communal and state-protected areas that cover over 42 percent of the country. This success has been driven by enlightened government policies that empower our communities to take responsibility for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats, and which generate benefits from the biodiversity economy through hunting, harvesting and non-consumptive uses such as photographic tourism,” Shifeta said of the Namibian conservation model.
The Namibian delegation, led by Shifeta, included a modest government delegation and has been supported by communities through Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Namibian Associations of Community Based Support Organisations, Namibia Nature Foundation and the Game Products Trust Fund.