Harare — GOVERNMENT has revoked the right of licensed domestic ivory traders to issue Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species export licences to visitors wishing to carry with them worked ivory, in a bid to thwart abuse in the trade of raw ivory disguised as souvenirs.
Of late, the Short Export Permit had been decentralised by the CITES Management Authority of Zimbabwe to licensed curio traders who could issue the document to customers at the time ivory products were purchased for non-commercial purposes.
However, investigations have shown that the system was being grossly abused.
Yesterday, Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general Mr Vitalis Chadenga, said anyone wishing to take ivory carvings out of Zimbabwe would now be required to apply to one of the three CITES management authority offices in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls to obtain a CITES export permit.
He said the decision had since been communicated to the CITES Secretariat in Notification to the Parties No. 20010/024 of August 16 2010 and that as such all CITES parties are requested to no longer accept a Zimbabwe document once known as a “Short Export Permit”.
“Zimbabwe believes in sustainable and legal wildlife trade, but we will not tolerate unscrupulous individuals who abuse the system.
“We are committed to curtailing any illegal trade in ivory from our country and request the co-operation of the global community to help us achieve that objective,” said Mr Chadenga.
The holder of a Short Export Permit was then required to get the endorsement of a customs officer in order to be entitled to leave the country with any legally purchased ivory carvings.
The move to strengthen ivory trade controls in Zimbabwe comes in the wake of documented abuse where raw elephant tusks were offered for export to other countries illegally using the Short Export Permits.
The CITES Parties have authorised trade in ivory carvings, for non-commercial purposes, from Zimbabwe since 1997, when the country’s elephant population was transferred to Appendix II of the Convention.
However, this decision does not allow trade in raw ivory that was never intended to be covered by the Short Export Permit system.
“TRAFFIC applauds the Zimbabwe government for this positive development”, said Mr Tom Milliken, regional director of TRAFFIC’s programme for east and southern Africa.
“It’s the right thing to do and sends a clear message against illegal trade practices.”
With nearly 100 000 elephants, according to the African Elephant Database of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group, Zimbabwe has the third largest elephant population in Africa.