Zimbabwe is doubling down on selling its wild elephants as it tries to reduce its high population of the animals, President Emmerson Mnangagwa says.
Addressing journalists at the end of a two-day African Union/United Nations Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said the country had an elephant population of 84,000 and could cater to only 50,000.
“Some of our brothers north of us have exhausted their wildlife,” he said. “We are willing to sell, in some cases to donate these wildlife animals.”
Mnangagwa mentioned nearby Angola as a potential buyer as the country looks to reintroduce elephant populations into wildlife areas where mines have been removed.
“Angola has a problem because of the war; there are a lot of land mines. A lot of the animals moved south. So we are now cooperating with Angola to raise funds to demine, and we will give Angola lions, elephants, buffaloes so that we decongest our own areas. I think this is a very humane approach to the issue of wildlife.”
In May, Zimbabwe made $2.7 million from the sale of more than 90 elephants to China and Dubai. At the time, the country’s wildlife agency said money from the sales would be used to support conservation.
At the summit, Mnangagwa also called for the lifting of a global ivory trade ban so his country could sell its ivory and rhino horn stockpile, which he said was worth $600 million. Mnangagwa said the sum would allow Zimbabwe to fund conservation efforts for two decades.
The sale of ivory is banned by an international agreement on trade in endangered species. But Zimbabwe and neighboring Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, with the support of South Africa, are making a fresh appeal to lift restrictions.
Those countries account for more than half of the world’s elephants and have millions of dollars’ worth of stockpiles that they say could be sold to fund conservation.
“The whole world right now is trying to close those ivory markets, and the question is, are we sitting on a ticking time bomb? Because when people eventually say ‘we are sick and tired of being zookeepers’ … when there is no return in investment and they go randomly out there and massacre them, that is the real problem,” Botswana Minister of Environment Kitso Mokaila said in a previous interview with CNN’s David McKenzie.
Residents and farmers in rural communities often complain about elephants invading their lands and destroying crops.