After reading this painful news from my friends at Tropical Ice, Nairobi, Kenya, you can register a complaint or voice your concern by joining the forum on the Cites website: www.cites.org/forum/forum.php
TANZANIA APPLIES TO CITES FOR IVORY SALE TO JAPAN
We at Tropical Ice would like to think that if there is one thing our visitors take away from our walking safaris in Tsavo, it's an understanding, and an awareness, of the plight of the African elephant.
Since 1989 when the elephant was placed on Appendix 1 of the endangered species list, there have been constant battles between the southern African countries of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe against the east African, west African and north-central African countries over the sale of ivory to Japan, China and Taiwan. These battles have taken place within the confines of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species).
During the years following the upgrading of the elephant to Appendix 1 when it became illegal to sell ivory internationally, elephant poaching virtually ceased across the African continent, and badly depleted elephant populations increased. Pressure however, from the southern African countries continued unabated, with CITES, in recent times, relenting to allow these countries occasional "one-off" sales to Japan and Taiwan. Each of these sales was followed by an immediate surge in elephant poaching across the continent, with Kenya and Tanzania taking the brunt of it.
In March there will be a CITES meeting in Doha, and we have just heard that Tanzania intends to apply for a one-off sale of its ivory stock-pile to Japan. A glance at the statistics of elephant poaching across Africa during the past twenty years leaves no doubt that these sales open the doors to increased poaching; the figures are indisputable. Given the weaknesses of CITES, and its propensity for allowing these "sales" to take place, and the fact that it will probably allow Tanzania its ivory sale to Japan in March, it's worth looking at the current state of elephant affairs in Tanzania as we lead up to the Doha conference.
Huge numbers of elephants are presently being slaughtered in southern Tanzania, particularly in the Selous Game Reserve.
- Six tons of ivory have recently been seized in Namibia.
- 608 tusks were recently seized in Japan.
- Eleven tons of ivory were recently seized on their way from Africa to Japan and Taiwan. DNA testing has shown that they originated mainly in the Selous region of southern Tanzania.
- Ivory trafficking between Africa and Japan has doubled in recent years. The small numbers of big seizures suggests a high level of organisation behind the scenes.
The Tanzanian government has said that it needs this ivory sale to Japan and Taiwan "to augment conservation efforts". When we look at the hard facts of what is currently happening in their biggest wildlife park - and the biggest elephant region in the world - this all seems rather dubious. It is worth taking a close look at the present management efforts in the Selous:
- The Selous has registered a recent record of tourists, with park gate revenues standing at 400 million shillings.
- In the last few years Selous tourist lodges and camps have increased their revenue from 2.3 billion to 6 billion shillings.
- Selous park entrance fees have risen 200% in the last year to US$75.00 per day (the most expensive in Africa).
AND DESPITE ALL THIS, POACHING IN THE SELOUS HAS INCREASED BY 400% IN THE PAST FEW YEARS.
The amount of money Tanzania will receive for their one-off sale of ivory (89,848 kgs), to Japan and Taiwan is miniscule compared to what the Selous is already making. If Tanzania required any proof of the consequences of this impending ivory sale to Japan it could check a clear fact:
IN 2008 CITES ALLOWED SOUTH AFRICA A ONE-OFF SALE OF 102 TONS OF IVORY TO JAPAN AND TAIWAN. POACHING IMMEDIATELY ESCALATED IN KENYA AND TANZANIA AS A RESULT OF THIS.
We in Kenya are concerned about this development, and our worries are more than just moral grounds; we share two crucial elephant parks with Tanzania: Amboseli and Tsavo. Elephants in these important regions frequently cross the borders between the two countries. Amboseli elephants have been shot in Tanzania where a hunting block exists on the edge of the border. In Tsavo we lost fifty elephants to poachers in the past year. In summing up, there is absolutely no reason why Tanzania needs to sell its ivory to Japan and Taiwan. There is simply no economic justification. As the Selous statistics show: the more money the region makes out of its wildlife, the greater is the increase in poaching. This suggests a mismanagement problem, and is also suggestive of massive corruption within the Tanzanian government, and its wildlife conservation bodies. Should we read into this that the benefits of this one-off ivory sale will extend no further than Tanzanian politicians' pockets?
If the future of this magnificent species lies in current preservation, it is critical that we make our voices heard now before CITES meets in Doha this coming March.