By Alvar Mwakyusa
London — AS the country is divided as to whether or not to destroy or preserve the stockpile of 112 tonnes of elephant tusks, government says it will in the near future issue a position on the matter.
"We will soon state our position on what to do with the stockpile. As you know the idea of selling the tusks is out of question," President Jakaya Kikwete said here while responding to a question from this reporter at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Churchill.
Tanzania has in the past sought permission to sell the stockpile but dropped plans recently as a measure to ensure that trade in ivory and rhino horns is totally banned to protect the wildlife.
He noted further that Tanzania will put itself in an "awkward position" in the international community if it insisted on selling the ivory while at the same time the country appeals to the international community to ban trade in ivory and rhino horns.
Sources within the government hint that it is mostly likely that the stockpile will be destroyed since preserving them is costly. "Many countries including China and United States have in the past destroyed impounded stockpile and Tanzania is mostly likely to do the same," the sources confided to this paper.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment James Lembeli (Kahama-CCM) is of the view that the trophies should be preserved. "We are yet to discuss this matter in the parliamentary committee but in my opinion we should preserve the ivory as a national treasure," Mr Lembeli noted.
In an interview with 'Sunday News' mid-this week, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said government had initiated a debate to involve various stakeholders including a parliamentary committee on what to do with the stockpile.
"The debate will guide us on whether to destroy or preserve the stockpile, initial plans to request CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to sell the stock have been dropped," Mr Nyalandu said. The Minister pointed out that the decision follows the signing by President Jakaya Kikwete last year of Clinton Global Initiative on anti-poaching drive in US last year as well as other UN conventions.
The Clinton initiative has set out a ten-year moratorium to countries to stop the killing, trafficking and demand of ivory to check dwindling population of wildlife. "If after ten years the population of the animals will increase to the desired number then it can be decided otherwise," Mr Nyalandu said.
According to the minister, a census conducted in Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park shows that the two have a combined population of 13,084 jumbos while in Ruaha National Park there are 20,000.
Mr Nyalandu admitted however that Tanzania's jumbo's population, particularly in the Selous Game Reserve has decreased by over 60 per cent between the year 2009 and 2013.