A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management official
checks ivory inside a storeroom in Harare. REUTERS/Philimon
Zimbabwe has accumulated 50 tonnes of ivory and will ask
the international body regulating its trade for permission to
auction its stocks to fund conservation of the animals, the
head of the country's wildlife agency said.
The ivory has been confiscated from poachers or recovered as
a result of natural deaths or government-sanctioned elephant
culls, officials said.
Zimbabwe says it needs to raise extra funds to deal with its
burgeoning elephant population, which at about 100,000 is one
of the largest in Africa.
Adult elephants consume about 100 to 300 kgs of food a day,
studies have shown, and officials say their growing numbers
are straining the impoverished country's resources and posing
a threat to plant life.
Some $30 million is required each year for conservation of
the animals and anti-poaching in Zimbabwe, but Vitalis
Chadenga, director-general of the Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority, told Reuters the current budget was
"very far from there".
"There is a point where our elephant population can get so
much to a point where they self destruct and this is
happening in some of the parks," he said.
In 2008, Zimbabwe was allowed to conduct a one-off sale of
3.9 tonnes of ivory by the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the
international group that governs trade in plants and animals.
Plagued by corruption, Zimbabwe provided detailed documents
to CITES showing how the money raised from the sale went
directly into conservation.
Zimbabwe faces an October deadline to make its request to
CITES if it wants to quickly sell the tusks.
However, conservationists worry the sale could fuel demand
for ivory, especially in the fast-growing emerging economic
powers of Asia where it is often used in carved ornaments.
Although elephants are prolific in Zimbabwe, poaching and a
loss of habitat have made them a threatened species in large
parts of Africa.
A global ban on the ivory trade was imposed in 1989 and was
widely credited with stemming the relentless slaughter of
African elephants in countries such as Kenya.
Occasional auctions from African government stockpiles have
since been sanctioned.
Chadenga said the global ban was not working.
"We have not had a legitimate sale of ivory now but we
continue to have an upsurge in poaching," he said.