The 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Sandton, Johannesburg, ended on Saturday by pitting brother nation against brother nation over a proposal to upgrade the status of the African lion from appendix two to appendix one.
t was at an event hosted by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation the opening salvo was fired by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and private owners and supported by the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa against Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Nigeria and Togo.
“The IUCN’s 2015 Red List assessment of Panthera leo (Bauer et al. 2015a) details serious declines in lion populations across much of their African range,” the latter countries’ proposal read.
“According to the assessment, which is based on 47 well-monitored lion populations, lion numbers are inferred to have declined by 43% from 1993-2014 (approximately three lion generations) with a decreasing population trend, and the species is thought to occupy only around 8% of its historic range.”
The proponents said lion were “possibly extinct in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Rwanda, and Togo” and were “functionally extinct in Algeria, Burundi, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Western Sahara”, basing their claim on the IUCN report.
But wait, said the antagonists, don’t presume to tell us what to do in our country.
Nambia’s minister of environment and tourism Pohamba Shifeta said there was a price to pay when living with wild animals as there was no such thing as a friendly coexistence.
Shifta said Namibia had legalised community conservancies that allowed people to look after animals and harvest sustainably from them.
“You can understand how people living with wild animals must feel when someone from somewhere who has not even seen wild animals now prescribes to local people when they already knew what to do,” Shifta said.
“Some of the application of rules want to prescribe on sovereignty of other countries are not acceptable at all.”
There was a similar sense of outrage from South Africa, Zambia, and private owner Wilfried Pabst.
“We’re being told by people outside, by people my colour of skin, how to run things in Africa,” Pabst said.
He said an attempted ban by the European Union on the importing of trophies was equivalent to banning hunting.
“In southern Africa alone if we ban sustainable use we would destroy 55 million hectares of land under conservation and lose in the region of 20 million animals, hundreds of thousands of jobs, each man or woman supporting a family of 10, and put millions of local people into destitution,” said Pabst, noting sustainable use was a “very successful model”.
“Listen to me very carefully, I mean every word I’m saying,” Pabst said emphatically. “These NGOs out there who propose to be animal protection or husbandry organisations, in my book are criminal.
“Did you hear this? Criminal. Because they are soliciting money under false pretenses. They go out there and say Cecil the lion, we’re going to stop this poor animal and the others from being shot; they do not realise that if what they promise their donors would be converted into real life, we would lose the 55 million hectares and all the jobs I’ve talked about because sustainable use is a key element of funding conservation,” Pabst said.
Permanent Secretary of Zimbabwe Prince Mupazviriho Chiwewete said his country had not received a single cent of the donations collected for Cecil the lion.
CoP17 was opened by President Jacob Zuma, who noted global governance was critical for success against wildlife crime.
“This can only happen if we have a transparent and fair system that allows governments to meet their development imperatives, which are intertwined with the sustainable use of species, which will be addressed in the coming days,” sais Zuma.
“We look forward to outcomes that are consistent with the prescripts of this convention, which are science-based and in the interest of conservation.”
The convention runs until 5 October and will evaluate progress made since the last meeting of 2013, and will make decisions on what additional measures are needed to end illicit wildlife trafficking.