The Tusk Dilemma

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Zimbabwe is proposing to sell its stockpile of seized ivory to gather funds needed for the conservation of its rapidly increasing elephant population, the Associated Press reported.

Wildlife officials in the central African nation appealed to foreign diplomats and the international community to support the sale of ivory tusks, currently banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international body that monitors endangered species.

Currently, Zimbabwe has 130 tons of ivory and about seven tons of rhino horn seized from illegal poaching and animals that have died.

Zimbabwean authorities warned that the world’s largest land animal has been multiplying at a “dangerous rate,” which has destroyed trees and vegetation vital for elephants and other wildlife.

The elephant population in Zimbabwe is around 100,000 – double the carrying capacity of its national parks – and their numbers have been increasing by five percent per year.

Officials warned that if the population continues to increase “it will be very difficult for us to do anything but culling which is opposed by everyone.”

They pledged that all the proceeds of the sales would go towards funding conservation efforts and supporting communities that occasionally clash with wildlife. The funds would also be used to motivate people living near parks to support the fight against poachers.

International syndicates finance poachers to kill elephants for their ivory tusks. The ivory is then trafficked overseas, where it is in demand for jewelry and souvenirs. This trade is thriving in spite of crackdowns.

Zimbabwe maintains that it is ill-equipped to deal with poachers without the ivory sales, particularly because the coronavirus pandemic severely impacted earnings from tourism.

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