Tanzania in fresh bid to sell its ivory stockpile

Saturday October 20 2012

A batch of illegal ivory confiscated in Thailand. Picture: File

A fresh bid by Tanzania to be allowed to sell its stockpiled ivory is likely to meet strong resistance from the international community and conservationists.

Ahead of the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in March, the government is lobbying Middle Eastern and Asian countries to be allowed a one-off sale of its 101,005kg ivory stockpile, worth nearly $60 million.

This is the second bid to dispose of the ivory after a similar bid in 2010 flopped.

Lazaro Nyalandu, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, told The EastAfrican that the government hoped to use the proceeds of the sale to “fight poaching.”

(Read: Unprecedented levels of poaching in Africa)
Already, there are indications that pushing the bid through during the CITES conference will not be easy. The British House of Commons, for example, has been advised to call for a complete ban on the ivory trade.

In its Third Report of Session 2012–13, the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee is advising its government to focus attention on the damaging effects of one-off sales of impounded ivory which, the committee says, undermine the CITES regime and fuel demand for ivory products — and seek an unequivocal international ban on all forms of ivory trade.


The committee also asks the British government to take a leading role in exerting “diplomatic pressure” in favour of the development and enforcement of wildlife law at the CITES conference.

“It is a matter of grave concern that increased poaching, driven by demand for illegal wildlife products, threatens the rhino, tiger and elephant with extinction,” the committee notes in the report.

According to Mr Nyalandu, Tanzania committed to sell the ivory to trading partners that have been already designated by the Standing Committee, as having sufficient national legislation and domestic trade controls to ensure that the imported ivory will not be re-exported and will be managed in accordance with CITES requirements concerning domestic manufacturing and trade.
The countries are Japan and China, designated as a trading partners at the 54th meeting in Geneva, October 2006, and 57th meeting in Geneva in July 2008, respectively.

Additionally, Tanzania promised not to sell before the CITES secretariat has verified the registered government-owned stocks.

It also pledges that the proceeds of the trade will be used exclusively for elephant conservation, community conservation and development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range in the country. Available records show that Tanzania needs around $77 million per year to sufficiently secure all its national parks, but its budget currently stands at $38 million.

The country also promises CITES that it would not make a similar request for at least four years from the date of the single sale.
CITES recently proposed measures to curb smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn, including a new plan to eventually allow ivory to be legally traded.

The plan for allowing ivory to be traded legally was one of the most debated agenda items at the 62nd meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES, held in Geneva in July.

“The Standing Committee has made full use of its compliance and enforcement procedures, which are a unique feature of CITES, in ensuring legal, sustainable and traceable trade” said CITES secretary-general John Scanlon in a statement following the meeting.

This proposal is expected to be presented for final approval in the next CITES meeting in March next year in Bangkok, Thailand.

The long-running global debate over elephants has focused on the benefits of raising revenue from legal ivory sales that could be used to pay for conservation measures.

Reported by MIKE MANDE and ADAM IHUCHA, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania