More than 100 tonnes of ivory at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism headquarters warehouse in Dar es Salaam can generate hundreds of job opportunities, a member of parliament has told the Guardian on Sunday Athuman Mfutakamba, the MP for Igalula (CCM), said the stockpile could generate more than 3000 jobs in more than 200 institutions countrywide.
He said: “The proceeds from the sale would be used exclusively for elephant conservation, community conservation and development programmes within Tanzania.”
Mfutakamba is Secretary General of the Association of Members of Parliament Activists for sustainable wildlife protection in Tanzania. Other MPs include Beatrice Shelukindo, Sylvester Maselle and the association’s chairlady Riziki Lulida.
The MPs estimate the value of the ivory stock to be around 150 billion Sterling Pounds, capable of “generously contributing to the national GDP.”
The MPs were responding to random interviews by The Guardian on Sunday in Dodoma this week.
Riziki revealed that Tanzania formally applied to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to allow it to sell ivory stockpile to China and Japan among other Asian countries with lucrative markets.
The country last submitted proposals to Cites to sell its stock pile of ivory in March 2010, a move which was rejected, but is applying again to CITES member countries for the go-ahead for the sale.
But the MPs urged participatory policy implementation programmes that encourage involvement of citizens in wildlife protection and conservation projects.
They said Tanzania wants to tighten the protection of its elephants from the highest category to allow trade in elephant hunting trophies, raw hides and live animals.
Mfutakamba also told reporters this week that the pileup was not necessarily a result of poaching killings, but partly a collection of natural deaths that was not unlawful.
However, they warned Tanzania’s proposal to sell the stockpiles comes at a time when elephant poaching is escalating and evidence suggests previous one-off sales may drive further hunting and the illegal trade in ivory.
In another development the Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Mary Rice warns:
"The very system Cites uses to permit so-called one-off auctions is profoundly flawed and, we believe, a major driver of poaching and the illegal international trade in ivory.
"It's ludicrous for Tanzania to even consider applying for permission to cash in on its stockpile - dumping more than 100 tonnes of ivory onto the market will only serve to further confuse consumers as to the legal status of ivory, stimulating fresh demand, spurring the black market and leading to more poaching."
Four African countries were given permission to sell their legally held stocks of ivory in 2008, which conservationists argue stimulated the market and provided a cover for traders to offload illegal stocks.
The EIA claimed that Tanzania had a flourishing trade in illegal ivory, with authorities unable or unwilling to control poaching and trafficking.
Rice urged countries to firmly veto all proposals for ivory sales to prevent the 1989 ban on the international trade in the product being undermined.
"They can start by emphatically rejecting Tanzania's proposal in March 2010, sending out an unequivocal message that all ivory is blood ivory," she urged.
Heather Sohl, senior species policy officer at WWF-UK said: "In principle, we are not in favour of any further international ivory trade unless and until the data make it clear beyond doubt that such trade will not encourage poaching.
"Any decision to down list a species would need to be based on sound science, and consider benefits to the conservation of the species or its habitat, as well as the benefits for local communities who live in proximity to that species."
Gabon has been hailed by wildlife groups when it burned its stockpile of ivory in a move designed to show its commitment to stamping out elephant poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.