Time ripe for Tanzania to revisit stand on banning of ivory trade?

12Dec 2019
Editor
The Guardian
Time ripe for Tanzania to revisit stand on banning of ivory trade?

THE Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) has recently reported a massive decline in poaching, especially as relates to elephants for their ivory, giving an increase in the population of jumbos as testimony.

TAWA says this is chiefly thanks to the establishment of special patrol groups – or rapid response teams (RRTs) – in forest reserves, resulting in an increase of over 20,000 elephants in the past few years.

These reports make good reading, as nobody can deny that our wildlife are a natural treasure which many countries lack and which keep attract thousands of  people travelling from thousands of kilometres away to come and view and in the process pumping billions into our national coffers.

It would be at best tragic if we helplessly look on as evil-minded people seek to kill these goose that lay golden eggs.

However, there is this global concord spearheaded by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty determined to protect endangered animals and plants.

It came into effect in 1975 and has Tanzania as one of the countries that have endorsed its establishment and enforcement, part of the deal being that, in order to put to an end the wanton killing of elephants, a ban on international trade on ivory be enforced internationally.

After some initial hesitation in 1990, CITES effectively banned global commercial trade in African elephant ivory, a step that saw elephant populations in the wild stabilise somewhat. The ban was supported by many countries, among them those in western Europe and the United States – but later also China, which was a major user of ivory.

But then there was the issue of what to do with the ivory stockpiles under the custody of the governments of some African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania. The ivory had been seized from poachers over the years.

CITES was on the opinion that these should be destroyed for fear that the ivory would otherwise filter into the world market and make the ban difficult to manage and even result in a rise in the incidence of elephant poaching.

In response to CITES call, which sought to spare elephants needless deaths or torture, on at least two occasions Kenya burnt huge ivory stockpiles – in 2011 and in 2016.

A total of 21 countries including the US and others that do not have elephants in the wild such have destroyed more than 263 tons of ivory since 1990.

The omission of Tanzania from this list is conspicuously apparent and could be viewed as inconsistent with our anti-poaching war. At one time Tanzania requested CITES for permission to sell part of its ivory stockpile to get money to fund the war against poaching of elephants and other wildlife – a fair proposition, we must say.

Come to think of it, one might recommend that time is ripe to revisit our policy on what to do with whatever ivory we may be having in stock.

This is assuming that the stock has kept piling up, what with the beefing of patrols against poachers, as well as in the belief that a multinational drive against ivory trade stands to benefit Tanzania as well.