Why Southern African Nations Are So Concerned About Elephants

(Bloomberg) -- An elephant summit begins on Friday to discuss a common policy for the four southern African nations where more than 60 percent of the world’s population of the pachyderms roam.

The five-day meeting in Botswana, culminating with a heads of state gathering, comes as the government is seeking to loosen its approach to conservation and allow hunting, a step it says will reduce conflict between farmers and wildlife. Critics say the proposal is aimed at winning rural votes in an election in October. Farmers complain that elephants eat their crops and are dangerous.

While elephants are threatened with extinction due to poaching in many African countries, Botswana, like its neighbor Zimbabwe, says there are so many that managing them is a challenge. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi has invited leaders from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia in a bid to agree on “concrete interventions.” Conservationists are skeptical.

Why Southern African Nations Are So Concerned About Elephants

Ivory stockpiles are also on the agenda. Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia want to sell their stockpiles and are lobbying the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to allow them to do so. Sales of the valuable tusks would raise money for wildlife management.

Why Southern African Nations Are So Concerned About Elephants

Zimbabwe and South Africa were granted permission in 2008 for a once-off sale of their ivory to China, but evidence that ivory sales encourage demand and boost poaching means there’s now worldwide support for the international moratorium on trade. Today, most nations with elephants burn or crush their ivory. China banned the ivory trade last year.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.