Earlier this year Tanzania applied to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for permission to hold a one-off sale of 101 tonnes of stockpiled ivory and to reduce protection for its elephant population.
The African country intended to seek approval for trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes, trade in registered raw ivory (whole tusks and pieces), trade in raw hides including feet, ears and tails, and trade in live animals. It is reported that the sale of stockpiled ivory was to be for China and Japan.
The downgrade of Tanzania’s elephants from Appendix I to Appendix II would have meant that they would no longer be listed as a species that are the most endangered according to CITES, and the ban on international trade in these specimens would have been lifted.
Photo © Steve Garvie
London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) called the proposal ‘ludicrous’. In 2012 EIA conducted an undercover investigation in Tanzania and reported a ‘flourishing trade in illegal ivory at both domestic and international levels, exacerbated by poor enforcement and facilitated by official corruption.’ EIA also pointed the finger at CITES with Executive Director and Elephant Campaign head Mary Rice claiming that ‘the very system CITES uses to permit so-called ‘one-off’ auctions is profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory.’
However, there seems to be hope in this dark history of elephant poaching with Tanzania’s seemingly progressive decision several days ago to withdraw her proposal to CITES. The decision has been applauded by neighbouring country Kenya with a statement from Patrick Omondi, who is one of the key members of the Kenyan delegation to CITES and Head of Species Conservation and Management at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)
This withdrawal is a strong message to the world that although Tanzania needs funds to manage her elephants, she is doing what is in the best interest of elephants across the continent. We welcome this decision and also applaud theChinese Embassy in Dar es Salaam for her recent commitment to support Tanzania’s anti-poaching efforts.
Tanzania’s decision to withdraw the proposal comes after other positive statements including a commitment from the American government to help Tanzania in fighting poaching incidences through logistical and technical support. Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr. Khamis Kagasheki, requested support on a visit to Washington for intelligence surveillance devices and skills as well as new approaches and strategies to tackle the existing organized poaching crimes.
We urge the parties to CITES to support the Kenya/Mali proposal for extending the 9 year moratorium on ivory trade to all range states. This will prevent any elephant range state from requesting trade in ivory until 2018 and will provide a much needed breathing space for theauthorities to crush the poaching and ivory trafficking cartels, and allow African and Asian elephant populations to recover.