Namibia will not burn its stockpile of ivory and rhino horns, a practice adopted by other African countries as a measure against poaching.
Currently the country’s elephant ivory and rhino horns is worth billions, and consists of tusks and horns accumulated through confiscation from poachers, natural death, culling or de-horning.
Namibia is one of the very few African countries that have been allowed a ‘one off’ sale of its ivory twice by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), because of its good wildlife management, despite the CITES standing ban on the sale of ivory and rhino horns.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, on why Namibia keeps so much elephant and rhino products in its bank, instead of disposing of them as done in other countries in the region as an anti-crime mechanism, Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said Namibia does not have a policy to burn ivory and rhino products.
In 1999, CITES authorised a “one-off” sale of stockpiled ivory from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to Japan, and in 2008 Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe sold their stocks to buyers in China and Japan.
“Burning of ivory and rhino horn is against our policy. Our policy derives from our Constitution, Article 95 that clearly stipulates how Namibians should benefit from their natural resources as long as they do it sustainably.
Burning or disposing of those horns or ivory is contrary to our policy,” he said.
Over the years, countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia have publicly disposed of contraband ivory to formally demonstrate to the world their determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in the product.
However, Shifeta said government’s point of view is that there is no logic in burning ivory or rhino products.
“We are trying to search for the logic behind burning as a demonstration, protest or deterrent. Countries that are doing it maybe see the logic. But I do not see the reason why we should do that as Namibians. I always ask people, why don’t we do the same with diamonds when we confiscate them from thieves? Do we destroy them, throw them away or burn them?” he queried.
Shifeta explained that huge stashes of elephant and rhino horns are normally auctioned to countries that are interested in buying such products, which in turn would benefit Namibians.
“We will get a lot of money and the proceeds will go to state coffers to alleviate poverty. That is why we are against the total burning of ivory and rhino horns – we have a policy to do it sustainably. Also, we feel it’s not an effective deterrent in fighting poaching,” the minister stressed.
He refused to divulge the exact tonnage in stockpile, the location of the bank as well as the exact monitory value, citing security reasons.
He would only say: “Of course we have a bank somewhere, where we store these products. These are Namibian products and the public should know that. For us to sell it off will lessen the burden for the ministry to have a stockpile of such products.”
He, however, revealed that the amount of ivory and rhino horns change almost every month due various reasons such de-horning.