Five countries in Africa that harbor most of the world’s elephant population are pushing for the ability to sell ivory, stating that those who live with the animals should be allowed to gain from them, The Washington Post reports.
On Tuesday, leaders from Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia met in Kasane, Botswana, to create a common plan on elephant management. They cited rising conflict between rural farmers and elephants. Sales of ivory currently necessitate consent from the global community by the means of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Elephant poaching has skyrocketed since the ban of ivory trading, and stocks of ivory, mainly acquired through natural deaths, continue to expand. The next CITES meeting, originally planned for May in Sri Lanka, has been pushed back due to bombing attacks that threaten the country.
“Let us resolutely affirm our position on elephant management and speak with one voice for our communities,” Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa said. “That one size fits all approach from CITES of banning everything disregards the good efforts of our governments and is neither sustainable or advisable. We must reject it.”
Botswana, home to the largest number of elephants, has seen the animal’s population skyrocket from 55,000 in 1991 to 160,000, causing strife between the creatures and humans. Large groups of elephants travel across the five nations in an area called the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, comprising swamp, grassland, and riverine environments.
“We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants,” said Botswanan President Mokgweesti Masisi.
The leader of Botswana called to strike down the hunting ban and suggested to “selectively crop” elephants for the benefit of communities. But critics in the country argue that the plan could damage the tourism industry, responsible for a fifth of the Botswanan economy, and is a political effort to win rural votes.