By Lucas Liganga
Dar es Salaam. Against the backdrop of massive elephant poaching, Tanzania is expected to press for tougher measures against ivory trade during an international conference to tackle the booming illegal transnational trade in wildlife to be hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in London this week.
But Tanzania’s move suffered a big blow this week as UK’s newspaper, The Mail on Sunday launched a scathing attack on President Jakaya Kikwete and his regime for failure to tame poaching.
Poachers kill over 11,000 elephants a year for the bloody trade in tusks. The UK’s newspaper wrote on Sunday, “In the gilded grandeur of London’s Lancaster House this week, the President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, will be greeted with smiles and handshakes by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, David Cameron and William Hague. Yet this diplomatic nicety, at the start of a summit on how to save the world’s most endangered species, will be a moment of supreme irony. For Mr Kikwete’s regime has presided over a slaughter of elephants that is unprecedented in his country’s history. Even worse, conservationists insist that many within the Tanzanian government’s ranks have been willing and active accomplices in that slaughter.”
Tanzania’s powerful delegation to the conference to be led by President Kikwete will include senior cabinet ministers and wildlife experts, confirmed a spokesman for the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Mkumbwa Ally, at the weekend.
Other members of the delegation are the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, and the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, said Mr Ally.
Asked about Tanzania’s agenda to the conference, Mr Ally could not delve into details, only saying: “Tanzania will ask for international support to fight poaching.”
And when reached by phone, Mr Nyalandu said: “Tanzania, as an important elephants range state, will rally international support in her war against poaching.”
A paper set to be published today by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says experts welcome the new push to address this enduring problem, but warn that efforts could fail without appropriate incentives for local people’s involvement.
On February 11 to 12, international conservation agencies — backed by the Royal Foundation – will agree on a set of joint activities to address illegal wildlife trade, while heads of State and government ministers at the conference in London on February 13, will issue a declaration that is set to guide policymaking for years to come.
But the IIED paper emailed to The Citizen reminds these and other international initiatives, that a potentially valuable tool that generates incentives for local people to engage in conservation is in danger of being overlooked.
The paper urges policymakers to combine law enforcement and efforts to reduce demand with incentives that encourage poor communities to use wildlife in a sustainable and well regulated way.
“Effectively tackling wildlife crime means developing approaches that protect wildlife for poor people not from poor people,” it says.
The paper— whose authors include staff at IIED, the International Trade Centre and the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) specialist group on Sustainable Use and Livelihoods— notes that wildlife is one of the strongest assets for sustainable development for many rural communities. A wealth of experience from across the globe demonstrates that sustainable use of wildlife – through trade, tourism and trophy-hunting – can be one of the most powerful incentives for conservation as well as acting as an engine for local economic development.
It says trafficking of wildlife, driven by escalating demand for products such as rhino horn and elephant ivory, is a booming market worth $19bn a year. It has long been a concern to conservation organisations — some of the species involved are highly endangered or are iconic conservation flagships — but has recently become of wider national security, concern because of suggested links to organised crime and armed militant groups.
“But wildlife means more than just the elephants, rhinos and tigers that dominate the news headlines,” says the paper entitled: The elephant in the room – sustainable use in the illegal wildlife trade debate.
It adds that there’s a danger that focus on these iconic species will lead policymakers to develop ‘one-size fits all’ responses.
Across Africa and Asia, the wildlife trade also involves many other species that could form an important component of local economies if people were allowed to use them in a sustainable way, says the paper.
“It is encouraging to see serious commitment from world leaders to address the deepening problem of wildlife crime,” says Dilys Roe, principal researcher at IIED. “But while strengthening law enforcement and reducing demand are important, we also need to pay more attention to how best to incentivise local people to manage and conserve wildlife.”
Simon Milledge, head of IIED’s forest team says: “Heavy-handed law enforcement can be a blunt instrument for addressing this complex issue. If not well targeted it could have serious, unintended, implications for some of the world’s poorest communities as well as failing to recognise their potential to conserve wild species by using them sustainably.”
The unintended consequences of heavy-handed responses to wildlife poaching were recently exposed in Tanzania, where a parliamentary inquiry found 13 people were murdered and thousands of livestock maimed or killed.
The United Nations announced recently that it could slap sanctions on Tanzania and other African countries for failing to end poaching, which is threatening to wipe out elephants and rhinos.
Tanzania could be targeted because it is currently considered a transit country in ivory smuggling, according to reports from the UN. Other countries considered to be transit routes include Kenya, Malaysia and Vietnam.