Tz tightens security on condemned ivories

06Mar 2016
Bilham Kimati
Guardian On Sunday
Tz tightens security on condemned ivories

Tanzania has installed state-of-the-art protection system on its 118,000-tonne stockpile of ivory in its Dar es Salaam strong room, heightening security on the condemned wildlife products.

Stockpile file photo

This is in defiance of the world anti-poaching campaigners’ call to burn the stock to discourage poaching and the related businesses.

But local authorities hail themselves for the move, saying it would bar non-sanctioned intruders from laying hand on what they believe is still a wildlife global heritage worth conservation, amid speculations that the stockpile was gradually dwindling in a systematic siphoning of the ivory for the outside market allegedly engineered by insiders.

“With changing technology, application of modern safety measures is necessary in making sure that no one lays a hand on the ivory stockpile and the wildlife which is the global heritage.

The strong room is safer than ever before as 24-hr surveillance is maintained,” said the Acting Director of Wildlife Division in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Herman Keraryo in an exclusive interview with the Guardian on Sunday yesterday.

Following rumours surrounding the fate of the stockpile, the former Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu last year pledged reinforcement of security on the ivory strong room that included mounting CCTV cameras in addition to other computerized checking devices.

Though no one has so far been arrested in connection with the theft, parliamentarians have repeatedly accused wildlife officials of facilitating pilferage of tusks from the strong room for a highly conspired dealership in the black market.

But when asked whether Tanzania was planning to destroy the condemned stockpile in abidance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) call , Keraryo said though Tanzania was committed to anti-poaching war it had no reason to hasten burning the stockpiles that had been kept beyond the reach of economic utility.

“The ivory comes from the wildlife which is the global heritage. The stockpile belongs to the people. The government is just the custodian.

Time will tell. If burning is the best option is for the people to decide. But if keeping the stock is the best alternative for future generations to learn about the past, that is to the interest of the people,” he explained.

He was echoed by Dr Francis Ndesanjo from Open University of Tanzania (OUT) in Dar es Salaam who said there should be hurrying in burning the ivory stockpile that could be useful in future scientific endeavours.

Retired Prof of Zoology, Yusuf Hemed Yusuf also backed his colleague in self-styled manner, dismissing the suggestion to burn the stock as typical of double standards played by the international community when addressing illegal ivory trade which is designed for their benefit at the expense of Tanzania.

“Poaching is largely taking place in Africa, but much of the demand comes from Asia, where animal products such as rhino horns are used in traditional medicine or as trophies for rich families,” Yusuf observed

“It is inconceivable to learn that the world cannot control ivory trade with all the technology gained so far. We need to save the global heritage from extinction.

The world must act together very seriously,” Yusuf insisted.

Conservationists say poaching has reached a critical point as tens of thousands of elephants, rhinos and tigers are slaughtered every year.

According to wildlife survey conducted by conservation specialists and released in June 2015, Tanzania’s elephant population declined by a staggering 60 per cent in five years from 2009, mainly due to illegal poaching caused the increasing demand for ivory in Far Eastern countries.

The trade in ivory has been banned under CITES since 1989, but poachers continued to wreck havoc assured of the market in Asia.

Again in 1999, CITES authorized a "one-off" sale of stockpiled ivory from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to Japan, and in 2008 Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe who sold their stocks to buyers in China and Japan.

However, CITES issued a 10-year freezing moratorium to four African states, namely Botswana, Gabon, Chad and Tanzania, banning the sale of their ivory stockpiles as part of the measures to discourage supply to foreign markets.