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This paper aims to look at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and role it plays within the sustainable use paradigm in Zimbabwe in particular and some of the countries in Southern Africa. Here we will understand the meaning or definition of CITES and how the CITES convention has played a great role in the countries in Africa and around the world.

To begin this discussion it is important to understand what the CITES Convention was all about. CITES was established as a response to growing concerns that over-exploitation of wildlife through international trade was contributing to the rapid decline of many species of plants and animals around the world. The Convention was signed by representatives from 80 countries in Washington, DC, United States, on 3 March 1973, and entered into force on 1 July 1975. As of December 2008, there are 173 parties to the Convention.

The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade of wild animal and plant species does not threaten their survival. The Convention's conservation goals are to: monitor and stop commercial international trade in endangered species; maintain species under international commercial exploitation; and assist countries toward sustainable use of species through international trade. CITES parties regulate wildlife trade through controls and regulations on species listed in three appendices. Appendix I lists species endangered due to international trade. Trade in such species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix-II species are those that may become endangered if their trade is not regulated, thus they require controls aimed at preventing unsustainable use, maintaining ecosystems and preventing species from entering Appendix I. Appendix-III species are those subject to domestic regulation by a party requesting the cooperation of other parties to control international trade in that species
In order to list a species in Appendix I or II, a party needs to submit a proposal for approval by the Conference of the Parties (COP), supported by scientific and biological data on population and trade trends. The proposal must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of parties present and voting. As the trade impact on a species increases or decreases, the COP decides whether or not the species should be transferred or removed from the appendices.

There are approximately 5,000 fauna species and 28,000 flora species protected under the three CITES appendices. Parties regulate international trade of CITES species through a system of permits and certificates that are required before specimens listed in its appendices are imported, exported or introduced from the sea. Each party is required to adopt national legislation and to designate two national authorities, namely, a Management Authority responsible for issuing these permits and certificates based on the advice of the second national body, the Scientific Authority. These two national authorities also assist with CITES enforcement through cooperation with customs, police and other appropriate agencies. Parties maintain trade records that are forwarded annually to CITES, thus enabling the compilation of statistical information on the global volume of international trade in appendix-listed species (IISD Reporting Services).

Zimbabwe is a wildlife range state with a large population of elephants, buffalo, lion, zebra, sable, crocodile, hippo and a wide variety of birds. This being the cause over the years, Zimbabwe developed a sophisticated and modernized wildlife legislative police and management system that attracted the attention of international wildlife organisations such as WWF, TRAFFIC and CITES before its reputation dropped over the past 12 years leading to its withdrawal from several world committees.
This has led to the increased growth of the elephant population, (which were initially placed in Appendix I) to due bans imposed on Zimbabwe due to their capacities falling below international standards.
At the CITES meeting held in Harare, Zimbabwe, - Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe put forth the proposal to change the protected status of elephants from Appendix I to II leading to the resumption of limited trade in ivory. (Brown 2007:110) states that, “A one time experimental sale of existing ivory stocks of some 13.8 tonnes and 20 tonnes from Namibia and Zimbabwe respectively were sold to Japan with the provision that funds raised by the sale be used to support conservation and community development projects in the two African countries.”

At the COP that was held in 2000, the three countries with the addition of South Africa again proposed the sale of elephant products. African countries however reached a consensus to keep to zero the Ivory trade quota. Elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe however remained in Appendix II with the addition of the South African population down listed from Appendix I. This now legalizes trade in live animals, hunting trophies, hides and leather goods for these elephant populations. The conservation of African elephants and the restriction of ivory trade is a complex issue that CITES will continue to tackle for many years. A system to monitor the illegal killing of elephants (MIKE) was proposed at COP 1997. Records of seizures or confiscation of elephant specimens is gathered in a database system develop by TRAFFIC called the elephant trade information system (ETIS). MIKE (monitoring of illegal killing of elephants) and ETIS are two significant species-specific initiatives overseen by the CITES Secretariat to monitor and manage trade in wildlife. (Amanor and Moyo 2008)

The Panel of Experts, who reviewed Zimbabwe’s elephant proposal (Pursuant to Resolution Conf.7.9) in 1992 and 1996 concluded that there were no threats to the survival of Zimbabwe’s elephant population in the short to medium terms. Illegal killing incidents had remained low, as reported to the CITES Secretariat through use of the Incident Reporting Forms and the National Reporting form on illegal killing of elephants. The most serious threat to the survival of viable populations of elephants was the expansion of human settlement and agriculture in the semi-arid areas where most elephant survive. Ultimately this leads to the eradication of elephants outside protected areas and to their overcrowding inside them. Viable populations inside government’s protected areas are dependent on the survival of suitable habitat in the communal areas.
Chauhan (2009;495), states that, “Since July 1996, the World Customs Organization and the CITES Secretariat have maintained a legal framework for international cooperation to exchange information related to wildlife crime and promote awareness and training for customs and management authorities at the national level.” According to the IUCN, primary reasons for the elephant population’s decline include habitat loss and fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, and poaching for elephant meat and ivory. Most recently, in 2007, CITES approved a second auction of 60 tons of government-stockpiled elephant ivory from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. CITES has yet to decide when this second auction will take place and to which countries it will be sold. The price of ivory may vary significantly, depending on its size, quality, and type. Additionally, experts highlight distinctions between forest elephant tusks and savannah elephant tusks. The forest elephant tusk is known to be more desirable for its pinkish hue and density, which makes it preferable for carving.

Brown and Halle (2007;110) argue that, “A key weakness of CITES is that the export and import permits effectively acquire a value opening up possibility for fraud, theft and corruption in issuing them of tampering such change of the number of specimens covered while in use”.
Thus, falsification of CITES permit is a common problem, particularly for high value products such as caviar. Theft and sale of blank documents similarly undermines the system. In theory, for export permit to be issued, the management authority of the exporting state must be satisfied that the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the states laws from the protection of flora and fauna. In practice however this is often not observed due to lack of capacity or corruption.

The principle form of utilisation of elephant in Zimbabwe at the moment is recreational, or ‘sport hunting’. Zimbabwe has established a national export quota of 400 trophy hunted animals per annum. The quota is allocated approximately as follows: 130 from the state safari areas, 150 from communal lands, and 100 on private land, and 20 from indigenous forest areas. Zimbabwe introduced a tag system to facilitate management of this export quota. Elephant hunting contributes about 64 % of the total income earned by Rural District Councils involved in CAMPFIRE (18) and about 50 % of the income earned from recreational hunting on state safari areas.

It is with this background that this writer concludes that there are some hazy points that can be concluded. Although CITIES has weaknesses in that they restrict the trade of endangered species, the aim of the convention is to preserve wildlife for the sake of the next generation. On the other hand there is also the negative side where their restrictions can lead to the overpopulation of these species which can encourage on the environment both on the land and the people living in the areas. This can also lead to the destruction of the land and maiming of human life. In the case of Zimbabwe if the issue of the elephants is not handled with urgency there could be a downside. CITES has proved reasonably successful, its secretariat provide training and limited capacity building and coordinates review missions to parties which contributes to the sustainable use principles. REFERENCES

1. Introduction to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Biodiversity and Wildlife,
2. Amanor, K and Moyo, S (2008), Land and Sustainable Development in Africa, New York, Palgrave Macmillan.
3. Brown, O and Halle M (2007), Trade, Aid and Security: An Agenda for Peace and Development, London, Earthscan.…...

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