Tanzania drops proposal to hold one-off ivory sale

Saturday January 12 2013

Seized ivory tusks on display at a Hong Kong Customs yard on January 4, 2013. Photo/AFP

The Tanzania government has withdrawn its controversial proposal to downlist the African elephant and dispose of ivory in a one-off sale after failing to meet stringent conditionals set aside by an international conservation organisation.

The EastAfrican has established that Tanzania failed to provide information on the number of elephants in the country, as requested by the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The country also failed to control the ever-increasing poaching, which resulted in a decrease in the number of elephants, contrary to a claim it had earlier made that elephants were increasing in number and threatening the human population.

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Independent investigators from CITES failed to see how the security apparatus in the national parks was being used to control poachers. They observed that the country did not have enough game rangers to guard the elephants.

In a letter to the government, CITES observes that there are discrepancies in the actual figures on the tonnage of the ivory proposed for the one-off sale (89,848.74 kg) and that of registered raw ivory that has been given as 101,005.25 kg.


“There was also an increasing number of (consignments of) illegal ivory smuggled to China and Hong Kong from Tanzania,” said the letter.

George Matiko, communication officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, says that Tanzania will send yet another proposal to the 17th Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, next year to sell only 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.

Mr Matiko said the government would only trade in the 101,005.25 kilogrammes raw ivory — whole tusks and pieces — are registered as government-owned stocks.

Tanzania’s withdrawal of the proposal was welcomed by conservationists.

Azzedine Downes, President of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said with the proposal off the table, parties to CITES and IFAW could concentrate on working together to stop the horrific trafficking in ivory that is threatening the existence of some elephant populations in Tanzania.

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The proposal included a downlisting from Appendix I to Appendix II of the Convention. This would have been a necessary step prior to ivory trade being allowed.

Tanzania had previously declared that it would not be submitting a proposal to sell ivory stockpiles at a meeting of African environment ministers in September, but then submitted a proposal on October 4, 2012.

Similar proposals at the last CITES CoP (Conference of the Parties) held in 2010 in Doha, Qatar, from Tanzania and Zambia proved extremely divisive amongst attendees, including numerous elephant range states.

Lazaro Nyalandu, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam that it was a wise decision by the government to withdraw its proposal as the world parties were in the midst of a global ivory war at the moment.

Mr Nyalandu said that the government would now have to reinforce its game rangers unit to protect elephants.

Khamis Kagasheki, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, says that Tanzania would work with the United Nations to investigate the involvement of militias in wildlife poaching.

Mr Kagasheki said the investigation would identify the barons behind elephant tusks trade and their modus operandi.

Meanwhile, Tanzania is in discussion with international partners to hold an international conference on poaching in Dar es Salaam this year.