By Damas Makangale
Tanzania has finalized plans to host an International Conference on Poaching involving East African countries as part of government efforts to control poaching, trafficking and illegal export of ivory. Speaking to East African Business Week, the head of communications in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr. George Matiko said that the tourism Minister Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki has responded to a call from the UN security council for an investigation into the alleged involvement of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the poaching of African elephants and smuggling of their ivory.
Matiko said that the ministry of Tourism is mobilizing the international community to curb illegal export of ivory from African countries.
He added that the slaughter of elephants and the seizure of illegal ivory from Tanzania and Kenya have soared to their highest levels in decades. "This trend of poaching and trafficking of ivory has been involved some of the dishonest police officers in the country that is why it is very difficult to deal with it," he said.
Furthermore, Mr Kagasheki was quoted in the local media recently as he says that the government was seeking to sell to China and Japan over 100 tonnes of ivory valued at over $55.5m to increase revenue. The request submitted in early October was due to be discussed at the next Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in March in Bangkok. It had already frawn strong criticism from conservation groups and some so-called "elephant range" states.
Tanzania said in the application that the ivory to be sold would exclude that which was seized from poachers and any whose origin is questionable. Cites has not yet confirmed Tanzania's u-turn, but international news agency reports last week said the country had withdrawn its application.