According to IFAW Tanzania has reportedly withdrawn her proposal to sell her ivory – though this has not yet been confirmed by CITES, the news has been met with elation by conservationists in Kenya.
Joyce Poole of Elephant Voices an organization that monitors elephants in the Masai Mara ecosystem stated
“Elephants are under extreme threat from an ivory trade spiraling out of control. Inserting more ivory into the mix would send the wrong message to consumers, and further stimulate the illegal trade. I congratulate the Tanzanian authorities for the wise decision to withdraw their proposal”.
Tanzania had proposed to downlist her elephant population from Appendix I to Appendix II and sell 137 tons of ivory at the next years 16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Flora and Fauna, CITES, which takes place in March 2013 in Bangkok. This is the third time that has failed to win support for a similar proposals to sell ivory at CITES. Apart from a few southern African countries and China, Tanzania’s proposal received virtually no support locally and had been termed “ludicrous” by some conservation organizations like the Environemental Investigation Agency, EIA – the government had admitted that 30 elephants were being killed each day to poachers, and together with Kenya, Tanzania is a major player in the illicit ivory trade an issue that has been linked to corruption in the government.
The decision to withdraw the proposal comes after other positive statements including a commitment to step up anti-poaching, and after the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam stated commitment to working with Tanzanian authorities to combat poaching, and ivory trafficking. The Kenya government will be welcoming this news wholeheartedly.
Through expert submissions from the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya’s position has been fiercely against Tanzania’s proposal. Despite huge investment in anti poaching and enforcement poaching is rampant in Kenya as a result of the demand for ivory which has been whetted by the limited renewal of legal trade.
And, this decision does not alter Kenya commitment to extend a 9 year moratorium on ivory trade to all elephant range states. This would prevent any country from proposing to trade in ivory until after 2017. Most conservation organizations back Kenya’s proposal including Save the Elephants, WildlifeDirect, Elephant Voices, the Amboseli Elephant Project, Born Free Foundation, IFAW, and others many of whom will travel to Thailand to lobby for Kenya.
For the first time in this dark period of elephant poaching, there is cause for hope. The Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife and the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service have raised the alarm and renewed commitment to anti-poaching efforts. The US Secretary for State Hilary Clinton has raised the issue in congress, and the Tanzanian government has requested support from the USA improve park management. While China is the main market for ivory, major markets also exist in other Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. What we hope for now is for all of these countries to make a commitment by jointly denouncing illegal domestic ivory trade, and contributing to a fund that will enhance African elephant range states enforcement, investigations, and management of elephants.