In what seems to be a new development in the government’s decision to destroy 137 tonnes of stockpiled ivory in conformity with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), yesterday it accepted a UK offer to help it preserve the tusks.
The UK Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds, who was in the country for a two-day visit, made this assurance on Wednesday evening in a meeting with journalists.
He said his government will assist Tanzania to preserve its stockpiled ivory as a support to anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trade campaigns carried out by the Tanzanian government.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu has said the ivory stockpile will be preserved under scientific conditions for ten years as the government assesses the trend of elephant poaching and the population of endangered species in the country’s national parks and game reserves.
“We haven’t decided yet on what to do with the stockpiled ivory … we are preserving them until when the government will decide on what to do with the consignment,’’ Nyalandu said over the telephone.
According to the UK minister, fighting against poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Tanzania was among the UK priority areas to cement the cordial relations between the two countries.
Commenting on his trip to the Selous Game Reserve, he said, he was happy to engage in talks with the game rangers, noting, “I have seen the challenges facing the rangers in Selous Game Reserve, especially in fighting against poachers.”
He said the UK relationship with Tanzania is cordial.
“The UK is among the big investors in Tanzania with 37 per cent of direct funds from the kingdom,” he noted.
Hinting on the ‘Big Results Now’ initiative, Simmonds applauded the move saying that the UK will also support it to ensure a good business environment and development at large. Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said that the UK government has agreed to fully fund the expense to preserve the country’s stockpiled ivory (137 tonnes) worth over USD80m.
He said that currently scientists were working to establish the actual cost for preserving the tusks.
“The scientists are conducting a research to establish the cost and age of the tusks to come up with technical advices on how best to preserve them. The UK has said that it will work in collaboration with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the government to ensure that the exercise is successful,” he said.
According to Minister Nyalandu, the 137 tonnes of ivory will neither be sold nor destroyed as it was announced before, but instead would be preserved for ten years.
Revisiting President Kikwete’s recent remarks on the sale of the tusks, Nyalandu stressed that allowing them to be sold will fuel the illegal ivory trade and wildlife killing.
He said that the government has directed a lot of efforts to fight poaching in the country including the recent increase of new 500 AK47 guns urging that the main weapon to win the anti-poaching war is through involvement of people around the game reserves and national parks who provide poachers with intelligence information.
“Apart from the weapons for our game reserves, for example, the Selous are very vast, thus we need many cars and helicopters for rangers’ patrol,” Nyalandu said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe called on the UK government to resume British Airways direct flights to between London and Dar es Salaam as a way to ease and boost trade and the tourism.
He also asked for visa issuing services to be carried out in Dar es Salaam instead of the current system where the services are done in Nairobi.
In February this year President Jakaya Kikwete ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to suspend plans to sell the ivory stockpile, saying it could provide a loophole for illegal dealers to unload their hoard.
He was leaving for London to attend the Conference on Combating illegal Trade and Trafficking of Elephant, Rhino and Tiger.
He said the government will soon start using new technology to identify those who spot the animals and rangers.
Kikwete said efforts by the government to fight poaching in the country will not be successful if there is a total ban on ivory trade. The biannual CITES meeting rejected the sale application for ivory from Tanzania and Zambia in March 2010.
The 15th CoP CITES meeting in Doha was to decide whether to grant or to disallow the applications of Zambia and Tanzania to sell their "legal" ivory stocks, much of which blood ivory is confiscated from poachers.
The two opposing sides were involved in last ditch lobbying and pressuring of friendly nations towards reaching a vote in their favour, with the anti-sale lobby offering their combined block vote in exchange to supporting the European nations seeking a ban on the fishing and trading of certain species of tuna fish.
Tanzania and Zambia were seeking the sale of over 100 tons of ivory, similar to previous exemptions for other Southern African countries, which was, however, promptly followed by a significant increase in poaching activities across Eastern Africa, from where blood ivory was then alleged to have been smuggled to those countries permitted to trade.