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Kenya weighs options to dispose ivory stockpile, after Cites vote

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A ranger shows elephant tusks intercepted from poachers during a commemoration of the 1989 ivory burning at the Nairobi National Park. Photo/FILE

A ranger shows elephant tusks intercepted from poachers during a commemoration of the 1989 ivory burning at the Nairobi National Park. Photo/FILE 

By COSMAS BUTUNYI

Posted  Monday, April 5  2010 at  00:00
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Even after successfully waging a campaign that saw the defeat of a proposal for a one- off ivory sale by Tanzania and Zambia, Kenya is considering various ways of disposing of its own stockpiles.

Sources estimate the country’s stockpiles could raise $9 million for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

An assistant director of KWS in charge of species and conservation management, Patrick Omondi, said the disposal plans have been under consideration since 2000. A series of proposals are soon to be presented to the Cabinet.

Among the options that the country is exploring is a non-commercial buyout where the ivory will be offered for sale to a consortium of donors before it is destroyed.

Another alternative is the establishment of ivory museums in one of the national parks where elephant skulls and other body parts preserved after the animal’s natural death would be on display.

Visitors would pay extra and the money charges that would be invested in elephant management and conservation.

“The issue has now been left to the government to decide,” Mr Omondi said.

While part of the ivory stockpile was seized from poachers, the rest was retrieved from elephants that died out of natural causes.

It is two decades since the last ivory stockpiles, then only 12 tonnes, were torched by former president Daniel Moi.

The decision on how to dispose of the ivory will however, have to wait until the expiry of a nine year moratorium against trade in ivory that began in February last year.

In addition to this, the country will have to conform to the proposals laid down in the Elephant Action Plan that was ratified at the recently concluded Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species held in Doha, Qatar.

At the meeting, the 175 countries that are party to the Cites convention voted against down listing elephant populations in Tanzania and Zambia, that would have paved way for a one- off sale of their 90 and 21 tonnes respectively, and reinstated a nine-year moratorium on ivory trade.

While maintaining that relations between Kenya and Tanzania have not been soured by the conflicting stands, Mr Omondi said the ban is intended to allow for the monitoring of the impact of legal ivory sales on elephant populations, besides implementing an elaborate African Elephant Action Plan across the 36 African range states.

“Our relationship with Tanzania is good and we deal with several cross border issues,” added KWS director, Julius Kipng’etich.

Meanwhile, the KWS is fundraising for its recently established wildlife conservation and management kitty, aimed at cushioning it from external shocks such as the 2007 post election violence that resulted in a drastic drop in tourist numbers.

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