Zimbabwe Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri wants to sell her country’s supposed $10-billion(R143-billion) ivory stock pile to China using a possible international legal loophole.
But experts say that not only is the minister misinformed that such a loophole exists, but her assessment of the size and value of her nation’s stock pile is grossly overestimated.
Media reports in Zimbabwe claim it sits on 96 000 tons.
Muchinguri-Kashiri told the Zimbabwean parliament recently that, as a Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) member, Zimbabwe could, under certain circumstances, commercially trade ivory if another Cites member nation, like China, met certain conditions.
But UK international law expert Stella Reynolds said this was not possible.
She said such a sale would be permitted only if two-thirds of Cites members agreed and this was not the case.
Such a dispensation would have had to be agreed on at a Cites meeting last month and this had not occurred.
Experts have also questioned the value and quantity of Zimbabwe’s stockpile.
“The minister is not only confusing kilograms with tons, but also millions with billions,” international wildlife trade expert Professor Alejandro Nadal said from the Mexican university where he teaches.
Also, according to Cites’ estimates, Zimbabwe has a stockpile value of between $5-million (R71.5-million) and$10-million (R143-million), depending on sale prices.
It was also reported that Muchinguri-Kashiri hoped to use the funds to help relieve Zimbabwe’s foreign debt. But Cites rules state that, even if a sale is approved, funds raised must be used for elephant conservation or for community development near conservation areas.