Govt counseled against selling ivory

03Mar 2016
The Guardian
Govt counseled against selling ivory

THE government has been advised against selling a consignment of ivory from its warehouse as the move is likely to fuel further incidents of elephant poaching.

Elephant tusks

A wildlife sector expert, Tony FitzJohn gave the advice yesterday when speaking to journalists who visited the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, under ‘Save the Rhino’ project which is meant to prevent the extinction of Rhinos.

The project is being spearheaded by the Tanzanian government in collaboration with George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust (GAWPT).

The project is aimed at working and undertaking rehabilitation program for Mkomazi which include restoration of habitat, re-introduction and breeding program for the highly endangered wild dog and black rhinoceros.

FitzJohn, who is also in-charge of the sanctuary, said that the government’s decision to sell the ivory will send the wrong signal and accelerate the illegal ivory trade.

He said if the government was determined to fight poaching, it should ‘walk the talk’ by destroying the tusks rather than storing them and/or selling.

“By destroying the tusks it would go to show that you are determined to fight poaching,” he said.

He said that anti-poaching is a serious war that needs collective efforts from different stakeholders.

“As an in-charge of this project, I have been receiving a number of threats from poachers, but I stick to what I am supposed to do, particularly conserving the wild animals which are on the peril of extinction,” he said.

The government has been requesting the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) permission to sell a consignment of 125 tonnes of elephant tusks worth US$150 million, equivalent to 300bn/-.

According to data on elephant population estimates from a country-wide aerial survey, they have declined by 60 per cent since 2009. Major losses have occurred in the Selous-Mikumi, Ruaha-Rungwa and Malagarasi Muyowosi ecosystems.

The 2014 countrywide statistics on elephant census show that the country has a total of 43,521 elephants, compared to the 2009 census with 109,051 elephants.

Director General of Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Dr Simon Mduma said the census covered all of Tanzania’s key elephant ecosystems as part of an ambitious initiative funded by Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to assess the current state of elephant population across Africa.

He said the census sought to assess the size and distribution of the country’s elephant population and provide Tanzania and other stakeholders with accurate and reliable data to inform long-term conservation management.

The census was conducted by TAWIRI in collaboration with FZS and Vulcan Inc, covering an area of 268,692 square kilometers, which is 28.3 percent of the entire country landmass.

The surveyed ecosystems were Serengeti, Tarangire-Manyara, Katavi-Rukwa, Burigi-Biharamulo, Malagarasi-Muyowosi, Selous- Mikumi and Ruaha-Rungwa, Mkomazi and Saadani National Parks.