Tanzanians Urge Their Government to Shelve Ivory Sale Proposal

Tanzania has been heavily criticized by local people living adjacent to some of the areas being hardest hit by elephant poaching for requesting approval from CITES  for the ‘one-off’ sale of 101 metric tonnes of ivory currently stockpiled by their government.

The country is currently experiencing some of the highest rates of elephant poaching, with an estimated 30,000 elephants being poached each year for their ivory. Between 2009 and 2011, Tanzania was also implicated in roughly 34% of all global seizures of illegal ivory and there is little indication that the Tanzanian government is taking action to bring this poaching pandemic under control.

Residents in the Selous Game Reserve area fear that if the government request to sell stockpiled ivory is approved at the forthcoming CITES meeting in Bangkok in March 2013, the results will be catastrophic for Tanzania’s elephants as the demand for illegal ivory will grow ever more, fuelling even higher levels of poaching.  The Selous is known to be one of the worst hit areas for ivory poaching with almost 4 tonnes of ivory, representing approximately 600 elephants, recently seized in Hong Kong and believed to originate from the Selous and Mikumi National Parks in Tanzania.

This is a scenario that the world has seen before. Despite the 1989 ivory trade ban, in 2008, CITES permitted China and Japan to benefit from another ‘one-off’ sale of stock-piled ivory from a number of Southern African countries. This sale caused a great deal of confusion in the Far Eastern markets related to the trade status of ivory, and together with the rising middle class in countries like China has fuelled the illegal ivory trade and demand for ivory across Africa. As a result, the elephant populations in many African countries have been severely impacted, and in some cases almost wiped out.

The sale of any more stockpiled ivory by Tnazania or any other country is not the answer. Instead, a number of key actions are urgently required. Strengthened law enforcement is needed at both national and international levels to combat elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade - a strong anti-corruption commitment is needed to achieve this in many countries. Everyone can help by vocalising their opposition to any trade in ivory for whatever reason as this only serves to bring more confusion and fuels a market that is already out of control. There is also an urgent need to influence the attitudes of those buying ivory trinkets and carvings and to remind potential buyers that almost all ivory on the market is ‘blood ivory’ and directly linked to the slaughter of one of our most charismatic global companions.


UPDATE 18 December 2012:Tanzania has withdrawn its proposal to trade in its stockpiled ivory!

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