TANZANIA’S NEW ATTEMPT TO SELL BLOOD IVORY DRAWS INSTANT OBJECTIONS
‘This time we want to get absolute support from neighbouring Kenya, unlike in the past’ was part of Tanzania’s deputy minister for natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu opening salvo when he announced that they would once again apply to CITES for a one off permission to sell stocks of ivory presently held to the tune of nearly 140 tons, 100 of which Tanzania intends to sell on the open market.
Expected to raise some 55 million US Dollars, the Dar government will like two years ago be hard pressed to make a case to CITES, which upon receiving the previous application, then voted down at the Doha meeting, carried out a series of investigations and found Tanzania wanting in terms of anti poaching, monitoring of illegal shipments and enforcement.
The reports, when published, caused some acute embarrassment to Tanzania’s wildlife and tourism officials, when it became known that an estimated half of the global blood ivory actually originates from the country and a parliamentary report published a few weeks ago officially pegged the daily poaching of elephant in Tanzania to nearly 30, making an annual total of about 10.000 animals killed for ivory.
Added controversy arose over Tanzania’s general conservation policies and activities diagonally opposed to protecting the environment and biodiversity the country has been proud of for so long.
The controversial Serengeti Highway, the still unclear routing of a railway line to the lake side town of Musoma, plans for a soda ash plant inside the sole breeding grounds for the East African flamingos, plans for a new sea port in the middle of the Coelacanth marine national park near Tanga, plans for Uranium mining in the Selous combined with a massive dam at Stiegler’s Gorge and the withdrawal of an application for UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site for the Eastern Arc Mountains, to open them for logging and mining, are just a few examples of how the values of the founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere are now being trampled upon, with a potentially very negative impact on the country’s tourism industry. That sector depends on wildlife and nature being kept intact and all these plans, combined with yet another attempt to sell ivory, will only raise more concerns and opposition.
Ahead of the last round of the CITES meeting Tanzania also singularly failed to commit that should they be given permission to sell ivory stocks, ALL funds raised would be dedicated to anti poaching operations and poured into the wildlife management sector, as feeble explanations of the then minister opened the door wide to speculation that in fact only a tiny fraction of such funds would go towards such ends and the majority be used for other general funding gaps, or as a source overnight put it ‘wasted on corruption and useless state companies like Air Tanzania which can swallow that amount in one go and still has nothing to show for’ – in reference to other hot topics from Tanzania.
The coalition against selling ivory is already forming up again and unless Tanzania can this time make a compelling case and in particular show results against the commercial poaching in the country, they are likely once again to find stiff opposition at the next CITES meeting, risking to be decampaigned again as a tourism destination and loosing goodwill around the world.
The UK based environmental investigation agency has already taken Tanzania’s request into the cross hairs and instantly reacted by demanding the country first get their act together against poaching while also layig into CITES itself for what was called ‘profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory’ a damning indictment of CITES past permissions to grant one off trading to mainly Southern African countries, as a result of which poaching instantly accelerated across Africa. In a statement the EIA reportedly said: ‘Parties to CITES need to regain control of the destructive world ivory markets and end the damage done to undermine the 1989 ivory trade ban by firmly vetoing all proposals for ivory sales. They can start by emphatically rejecting Tanzania’s proposal in March, sending out an unequivocal message that all ivory is blood ivory’ before adding that Tanzania ‘appeared unwilling, or unable, to exercise control of poaching and ivory trafficking’.
Harsh words ringing in the upcoming battle on principle and standing up for wildlife conservation, not impeding it. Will it in the end be Burn Ivory Burn as done in Kenya repeatedly in the past or selling for greed until the last elephant has been killed, driven by demand from countries like China which have failed to regulate and enforce on their domestic market while Africa’ wildlife resources are being decimated? Watch this space as this saga unfolds in coming months ahead of the March 2013 CITES CoP in Bangkok.