Tanzania told to ‘crush it or burn it’ but not sell it


(Posted 29th November 2013)

Crush it or burn it’ was the tenor of reactions when it became known that Tanzania was still scheming to get CITES permission to sell ivory stocks, after running into global opposition at the last CITES meeting and following a number of objections by the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka over glaring anomalies of the application vis a vis the reality of conservation and anti poaching measures on the ground at the time.

Tanzania then withdrew the application, or so media releases suggested, making the local, regional and international conservation fraternity sit up and take notice when none other than the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Amb. Khamis Kagesheki, seemed to suggest at a workshop earlier in the week that the application to sell ivory was back on the table. Kagesheki was quoted by a source attending the meeting to have said that the proceeds would go towards conservation and anti poaching work, but both his predecessors in office were faulted over vague commitments and leaving too many back doors open that some of those funds a potential sale of blood ivory could generate would go to other budget lines, a stark reality of course for all those who know the inner workings of governments in the region, if not worldwide.

Sale of ivory must no longer be tolerated. The carving businesses in Vietnam and China and Thailand and elsewhere in the Far East must be put out of business and any form or trade or processing or possession criminalized because otherwise in ten years our elephant will be gone. CITES must at last realize that this is a historic opportunity for them and failure will not be tolerated. If America can crush all those ivory pieces they confiscated, and those were of immense value on the black market for their carvings and all, then Tanzania can at least emulate Kenya and either burn the ivory they have or else emulate America and crush it. This would bring global focus back on Tanzania as a country which means conservation when they utter the word and the tourism industry could capitalize big time on such an event’ wrote the source when passing the information.

While Kagesheki himself enjoys a reputation as a ‘doer’ and a no nonsense man, can his assurance nevertheless not be taken for granted in the wider context of how the Tanzanian government has in recent years behaved vis a vis conservation, with the source citing such well known examples like the withdrawal of the UNESCO WHS status application for the Eastern Arc Mountains, the controversial Serengeti highway and the even more controversial mining for uranium in the Selous, to add to the latter the planned hydro electric dam at Stieglers’ Gorge and the planned destruction of the Coelacanth habitat through a new deep sea port at Mwambani.

Kagesheki’s mention of the need for political will in fighting anti poaching also went to the core of the problem in Tanzania, which according to available data lost at least 10.000 elephant last year and in all likelihood even more this year, following a record find of blood ivory only recently in Zanzibar and other seizures in Dar es Salaam before. Hard choices must be made by governments in Africa within the elephant ranges, if to continue turn a blind eye to the escalating problem of commercial scale poaching or to protect their wildlife and in the process secure the foundation for their largely wildlife based tourism sectors. Watch this space.

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