We are facing an unprecedented wildlife conservation crisis. With COVID-19 impacting tourism to the point that earnings have been next to zero for nearly a year, you need to accept the fact that the funds required to save wildlife and the people who co-exist with it must still be committed by the Government.
If tourism is not providing the money needed to protect wildlife from extinction, you can still do something that hasn't been done before but will have an almost immediate positive effect in 2021.
You and your fellow SADC Heads of State can establish regulated ivory and rhino horn trading authority. This would permit the orderly auctioning of both private and public currently stockpiled and registered inventory to consumers authorized by their governments to import these commodities.
It is that simple: Sell billions of US dollars-worth of wild products now in inventory before SADC's wildlife is poached into extinction. Use the money raised to conserve the region's wildlife. Trade, not any form of aid, will save SADC wildlife.
While establishing a legal market for SADC ivory and rhino horn trade is relatively straight forward - the expertise and the type of mechanism required already exists - it will nevertheless come with a storm of protest from the animal rights advocates who continue to have their own self-interest - not Southern Africa's regional interest - at heart.Acting as a lone nation to establish your own auction market for ivory and rhino horn may take more of your political capital than you are willing to expend. But acting together with other leaders, within the SADC framework, is a different story. It would involve using resources already available to take advantage of an opportunity already in place.
China unbanned ivory and rhino horn trade but suspended implementation of its decision. If the SADC countries act to establish a legal, fair, and balanced way to sell ivory and rhino horn to China, it will be encouraged to lift the ban.
In addition to ivory and rhino horn riches, Africa has deep mineral wealth. Much of it in wildlife protected areas. Therefore, why not ask the SADC to authorize the formation of an international commission to establish extraction protocols that protect our natural areas and yet yield funds to support economic development. This kind of bold move is demanded at a time when SADC economies are crippled by COVID-19.
Your Excellencies: Help save SADC residents and their wildlife. Show Donald Trump what "shithole countries" can do for themselves to protect their wildlife before he leaves office, at the end of January 2021. Signal to US President-Elect Joe Biden that the SADC countries are ending the eco-colonial racism that underlies the influence of traditional animal rights groups. Do it before Biden takes office to ensure maximum impact.
SADC countries will never be free, economically independent and self-reliant as long as they allow themselves to be guided in their wildlife policies by self-serving animal rights groups. SADC residents involved in a snap survey this month want you to show leadership and be bold enough to do what's right for SADC wildlife and its people. They do not want you to choose a path that may please some of those in your governments, who benefit from the gifts that the animal rights groups shower on African decision-makers.
Nelson Mandela and Nkwameh Krumah made their marks on history by liberating South Africa and Ghana respectively, from colonial rule. This, your Excellencies, is your opportunity to do something equally historic for the continent's wildlife and its people.
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa
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