Pretoria – Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has welcomed the decision not to include all African elephant populations in Appendix 1, which includes species that are threatened with extinction.
“This decision is a victory for scientific, evidence based decision-making and also a victory for African science,” Minister Molewa said.
The decision was made at the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention for International Trade in endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which is currently underway in Johannesburg.
“Delegates at CITES COP17 have also sent a strong message that reinforces the adherence to the founding principles of evidence-based decision making and compliance to the listing criteria of CITES,” Minister Molewa said.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mail, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Uganda tabled a proposal for the uplifting of African elephants to Appendix 1.
“The proposal to up-list elephant populations of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana was roundly rejected as it could not attract enough number of votes necessary for listing. This change in appendices for this proposal required a two-thirds majority,” the department said.
The CITES appendices list species that could be at risk and whose import, export and re-export is controlled through a permit system (Appendix II) and species that are already threatened with extinction, where wild specimens taken cannot be commercially traded (Appendix I).
“Namibia and Zimbabwe, both of which are African elephant range states with significant elephant populations argued that their respective countries’ elephant populations did not meet the criteria to be included in Appendix 1 of CITES.
“In support of the Namibian and Zimbabwean position, South Africa concurred that the listing criteria was not met,” the department said.
South Africa’s African elephant population is increasing, with the Kruger National Park having the largest African elephant population in the country.
The total African elephant population of South Africa is 27 000 elephants.
The 2015 Kruger National Park African elephant survey shows that there was a minimum of 17 086 elephants in the Park in 2015.
Furthermore, the population has increased by 4.25% over the last elephant generation.
“Countries opposing the up-listing of the African elephant further argued that such a listing would be a setback for their respective countries’ sustainable utilization policies, which has allowed many elephant range states to invest in conservation,” the department said.