Zimbabwe, home to African elephants' prime sanctuaries, has seen its stockpile of tusks rising to 70 tons due to an international ban on ivory trade, a cabinet minister said Friday, urging the country's wildlife authorities to come up with innovative ways to generate revenue from the ivory stockpile in order to fund conservation.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, when announcing a new board of directors for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Management Authority, said that the board need to draw up "sustainable and viable management strategies" that would ensure improved revenue streams into the government.
Kasukuwere, however, said revenue generation should not be done at the expense of conservation.
Zimbabwe is home to more than 10,000 African elephants. Ivory products can be legally traded in the country.
But the trade is banned on the international market. In 2007, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) imposed a nine-year moratorium on the sale of ivory in a bid to protect elephants and rhinoceros.
Zimbabwe was last allowed to trade in registered stocks of raw ivory in 2008 and its attempts to be granted special permission to trade some more before the expiry of the moratorium have not been successful.
Poaching has been on the rise in Zimbabwe. Last year, poachers used deadly cyanide to kill more than 100 elephants in the country's prime national park in less than two months, creating an international outcry for ramped-up anti-poaching efforts. The government has blamed the worsening situation on the lack of funds earmarked for conservation, forcing the authorities to immobilize rangers and lease out facilities they cannot afford to maintain.