A herd of elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
A herd of elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

An elephant summit begins on Friday, May 3, to discuss a common policy for the four Southern African nations where more than 60% 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 looks 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.

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 sceptical.

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 (CITES) to allow them to do so. Sales of the valuable tusks would raise money for wildlife management.

Zimbabwe and SA 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 trade in ivory last year.

With Taonga Clifford Mitimingi, Godfrey Marawanyika, Kaula Nhongo and Ana Monteiro

Bloomberg