Tanzania: Burning Ivory Will Not Stop Poaching

ACADEMICIANS and wildlife conservation stakeholders have said that burning confiscated ivory stockpiles was not an option for the reason that the practice would not stop the illicit trade but rather implied defeat in the control of poaching.

Strong enforcement of wildlife protection laws in addition to global consensus on hefty penalties against unscrupulous traders who propel poaching among other counteractive measures are recommended to stop the killing of elephants and rhinos in Africa.

Dr Marcellina Chijoriga also the Dean, University of Dar es Salaam Business School said ivory was not like cocaine that poses health risks to human life, therefore it should be used wisely being another source of income in need of proper handling.

“Rejection of the requests by Zambia and Tanzania to hold one-off sales of their ivory stockpiles during a United Nations species trade meeting in Doha in March, last year was not the end of the bid. Authorities need to tighten law enforcement systems along with other corrective measures.

Burning of ivory stockpile is not an option,” Dr Chijoriga said. She underscored the need for the country’s negotiation team to present strong and convincing arguments to let member states of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) understand the country’s concern to support oneoff sales of the stockpile available.

“It is necessary to have empirical data on ivory collected from animals that died of natural causes and the contraband stockpiles. It is quite wrong to burn down the stockpiles believing that such efforts would stop poaching,” Chijoriga clarified She said it was not enough to complain that fellow East African member states did not support the country’s bid but rather enough preparation with evident talking points was essential.

For his part Dr John Baitani, Programme Officer Monitoring and Evaluation University of Dar es Salaam Business School challenged the international community to think of ways to punish buyers who fuel poaching. He said it was possible to institute effective management of national parks and game reserve areas, but there should also be a mechanism to hold responsible illegal traders currently offering USD 1,800 per kilogramme.

Two years before the Doha meeting, Tanzanian authorities appealed to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the global agency that slammed the ban on trade in ivory and rhino horns, to temporarily lift the moratorium to enable it dispose 89.8 tons of ivory stockpile. Self-employed consultant Zablon Otieno called for a common voice by the international community to stop the illicit trade in ivory.

He recalled recent experience during his visit to Bujumbura in Burundi where sale of ivory is carried out openly because it is not prohibited. “Such loopholes propel poaching in national parks like Katavi. Cross border activities are not controlled and any ivory cache that found its way to Bujumbura would definitely reach ready markets in Asia.

Burundi without a single national park finds no reason to issue ban on ivory trade,” Otieno explained. Othman Mjema former professional hunter accused some of local park rangers of being part of the problem. These are not patriotic and some of them colluded with poachers to kill rhinos and elephants for illegal exports.

“With modern communication system like the Global Positioning System (GPS), one would not expect poachers to operate with impunity. When poachers are in operation on one side of the area, corrupt wardens pretend to be busy on surveillance on the wrong side of the area,” Mjema alleged. He asked the authorities to work out common strategies to dismantle the networks that now use high tech communication to run their business.

These days, buyers and sellers do not have to meet physically. Rather they ply the internet,” he said. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Ezekiel Maige has also agreed that incineration of ivory was not optional because the attempt would not guarantee control of poaching that required co-ordination of additional measures.

“Initiation of Tanzania Wildlife Service (TWS) will help address different challenges including acquisition of working tools like inspection helicopters, deployment of well-trained non-negotiable game wardens and others,” Maige said.

According to last year’s annual report by the world’s largest database on ivory seizures known as the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), the illicit trade in ivory, increased in volume between 2004 and 2009. The watchdog organization maintained that the fear of putting ivory on the market would stimulate demand, not satisfy demand and that the situation in Africa would get even worse.

The UN body that oversees trade in threatened wildlife (CITES) last year rejected bids by Tanzania and Zambia to sell their stockpiles to Japan and China. The decision was reached during the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in Doha, the Qatari capital.

Tanzania wanted to sell 89.8 tonnes of ivory, while Zambia had argued it needed to sell its 21 tonnes of the material, partly because it was too costly to maintain. The Cites secretariat had recommended the rejection of both countries’ proposals, citing a poor enforcement of poaching and illegal sales domestically.

Former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Ladislaus Komba said; “We are sitting on a treasure (ivory) that we are not allowed to use to help our population, to help the poor build schools and roads,” he said.A separate proposal to downgrade Tanzania’s elephants to a lower level of protection, which allows commerce if it is monitored and deemed sustainable was also rejected.

In parts of the Far East countries, the high price of raw ivory is fetching as much as USD 1,800 a kilo. The ivory trade was banned in 1989, but two oneoff sales were allowed in 1999 and 2008. The last permitted sale of ivory in 2008 saw Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe releasing stocks.

Original Post: http://allafrica.com/c/-4Gc4l

By: Bilham Kimati, 15 October 2011

Vanity Fair – Agony and Ivory

Vanity Fair Magazine: By Alex Shoumatoff – August 2011

Highly emotional and completely guileless, elephants mourn their dead—and across Africa, they are grieving daily as demand from China’s “suddenly wealthy” has driven the price of ivory to $700 a pound or more. With tens of thousands of elephants being slaughtered each year for their tusks, raising the specter of an “extinction vortex,” Alex Shoumatoff travels from Kenya to Seattle to Guangzhou, China, to expose those who are guilty in the massacre—and recognize those who are determined to stop it.

… In 2008, post-election ethnic violence followed by the global recession halved tourism to Kenya, making the wildlife in the parks even harder to protect. Then, in 2009, one of the worst droughts in living memory hit much of the country. More than 400 elephants in Amboseli died. The Maasai lost many of their cows and are still struggling, while the price of ivory is higher than ever, so increasing numbers of them are risking the misfortune that killing an elephant could bring on their families, according to their traditional thinking, and are getting into poaching. There are brokers just across the Tanzania border who are paying cash—around $20 a pound—for raw ivory and selling it to the Chinese. Or perhaps there is a series of transactions, a series of middlemen, but ultimately what is not being picked up by the Kenya Wildlife Service’s sniffing dogs at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, is making its way by all kinds of circuitous routes to China, where raw ivory is now fetching $700 or more a pound. Ninety percent of the passengers who are being arrested for possession of ivory at Jomo Kenyatta are Chinese nationals, and half the poaching in Kenya is happening within 20 miles of one of the five massive Chinese road-building projects in various stages of completion.

There had been almost no poaching around Amboseli for 30 years before a Chinese company got the contract to build a 70-mile-long highway just above the park. Since the road crews arrived, in 2009, four of Amboseli’s magnificent big-tusked bulls have been killed, and the latest word is that the poachers are now going after the matriarchs—a social and genetic disaster, because elephants live in matriarchies, and removing the best breeders of both sexes from the gene pool could funnel the Amboseli population into what is known as an “extinction vortex.”

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to just Kenya. Across the continent, in their 37 range states, from Mali to South Africa, Ethiopia to Gabon, elephants are being killed, some believe, at the rate of around 100 a day, 36,500 a year. But like so many things in Africa, it is impossible to know how many elephants there really are (estimates run from 400,000 to 650,000), how many are being slaughtered for their tusks (figures range from “more than 4,000” to “as many as 60,000” a year), or how much ivory is being smuggled to Asia (over the last 10 years, an annual average of roughly 45,000 pounds has been seized in Asia or en route).

To read the full 8 page article please go to: Vanityfair.com