Tanzania Says Won’t Destroy Ivory


IPP Media 

Date Published


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Tanzania has rejected outright a proposal from the United States government to destroy its ivory stockpile, believed to be the world’s largest, as pressure mounts on African countries to torch illegal ivory as a symbolic step towards saving elephants.

 The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, told US ambassador Mark Childress that the country had no plans whatsoever to destroy more than 34,000 tusks weighing roughly 125 tons stored in a closely-guarded warehouse at the ministry headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
It has been estimated that Tanzania’s ivory stockpile would be worth over 460 billion on China’s black market.
US wildlife officials say destroying stockpiles of illicit ivory is an effective way to curb a trade that threatens to wipe out elephant populations across the world.
However, Maghembe told the US ambassador and his delegation during a visit to the ministry’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam that the country’s stockpiled ivory was still useful for scientific research and as legal evidence in criminal cases against elephant poachers.
“The minister made the remarks after ambassador Childress made a proposal to the (Tanzanian) government to destroy part of its ivory stockpile to send a message to the world that Tanzania was committed to the fight against poaching,” the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism said in a statement yesterday.
South Africa opposed a resolution in January that lauded the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for supporting the destruction of government stockpiles of ivory seized from poachers and traffickers.
South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are all also strongly against the idea of destroying illegal ivory after each making a profit from their stockpiles in 2008, when CITES approved a one-time ivory sale to China and Japan. 
Critics say that move is widely believed to have spurred the current elephant poaching crisis, in which some 30,000 animals are killed each year.
The United States, European Union, Kenya, Uganda and other countries argue that given the current global poaching crisis, it would be unproductive and dangerous to proceed with discussions about legalising the ivory trade.
CITES believes that destroying illegal ivory is the best way to deter people from buying ivory products.
Since 2011, there have been 11 ivory destruction events in 10 countries – Kenya, Gabon, the Philippines, India, United States, China (including Hong Kong), France, Chad, Belgium, and Portugal.
Neighbouring Malawi last week burnt 2.6 tonnes of ivory smuggled in from Tanzania, following a cross-border dispute over whether or not the elephant tusks should be saved as legal evidence against poachers.
Tanzania had succeeded in delaying the burning since September, but a court in Malawi this month ordered wildlife authorities to publicly destroy the 781 pieces of ivory — valued at nearly $3m.
According to Interpol, a “significant portion” of ivory reaching international markets originated from elephant herds in Tanzania, which has been hit hard by a global spike in poaching over the past decade with its jumbo population dropping to about 43,000 in 2014 from 109,000 in 2009.
The country relies heavily on revenues from safari tourism and President John Magufuli has pledged to root out poaching as part of a wider war on corruption.
The Kisutu resident magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam last week sentenced two Chinese men to 35 years each in jail for smuggling 706 pieces of ivory, the latest conviction of Chinese nationals in a drive to stamp out poaching.
Back in October, Tanzania charged prominent Chinese businesswoman Yang Feng Glan (66), dubbed the “Ivory Queen”, with running a network that smuggled out tusks from 350 elephants in the country.