Zimbabwe is planning to start selling off its stockpile of tusks worth an estimated US$300 million.
This has been revealed by Fulton Mangwanya, director-general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as he addressed lawmakers Monday in the capital, Harare.
While CITES has banned international ivory sales to curb poaching, frustration is growing over the fact that “other countries are prescribing how we should handle our animals,” Mangwanya told a parliamentary committee on environment and tourism.
Withdrawing from CITES would have the support of neighbors Botswana, Zambia and Namibia, which all have large elephant populations of their own, he said.
In recent years, Zimbabwe has raised money for conservation by selling elephants to China.
The size of the population, estimated at 84,000, is twice what can be supported by available food and land, according to the government.
Botswana last month lifted a hunting ban on wildlife because it says it has too many elephants, which destroy crops and sometimes kill people.
The last once-off commercial sale of stockpiles of elephant ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe that CITES allowed was completed in 2009.
Most of the tusks went to China and Japan.
“Countries like Japan are supporting us, China is dilly-dallying, I’m not quite sure why, but they are the ones that want our ivory,” Mangwanya said.
Critics fear that allowing the sale of ivory stocks will fuel demand and increase poaching.
There are also concerns over the possible diversion of ivory sales earnings, in a country where high level officials have previously been accused of a hand in poaching and in the alleged theft of ivory stocks.