By Rose Athumani
Tanzania is persuading the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat to speed up its decision-making mechanism for future ivory trade transactions.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, said when opening the two-day multistakeholder's meeting on illegal wildlife trade in Dar es Salaam, that a prompt decision by CITES will enable Tanzania to dispose of the huge ivory stockpile currently in the stores.
He, however, acknowledged that the current situation and rate of elephant poaching might generate heated debates on whether to ban or not to ban trade in ivory.
Amb. Kagasheki explained that the recent ivory seizures have added to the already swelling stockpiles of elephant tusks without disclosing the amount of ivory stockpile that the country has. The government recently intercepted in Zanzibar what it has described as the largest consignment of ivory in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The minister noted that if granted permission to sell the consignment, the money would go towards supporting elephant conservation efforts, as well as communities which pay the price of coexisting with elephants around protected areas.
"We believe discussions will lead to a good understanding on what to do with that kind of ivory stockpile that we have. On one hand, we have the stockpile and on the other hand, our Jumbo is getting butchered... this poses a great challenge," Amb. Kagasheki noted.
He added that government efforts in the anti-poaching fight is facing a myriad of challenges, including insufficient funds to curb poaching, inadequate awareness of environmental crime among law enforcing agencies, lucrative illegal markets for ivory in Asian countries, increasing sophistication of communication in poaching syndicates, corruption and lack of political will to support anti- poaching efforts.
"We need the necessary political will in the anti- poaching drive, so that we can all move positively forward and record great achievement," he explained. He added that the government has not abandoned the special operation dubbed 'Operation Tokomeza'.
However, the government is taking stock and will soon launch the programme. He added that the government is also reviewing the current Wildlife Act of 2009 to ensure stiffer penalties are imposed on wildlife abuse crimes. More....