By Fredrick Nzwili
International restrictions on elephant ivory poaching gained a bit of clout after a key African nation abandoned efforts to sell a hefty trove of “legal ivory.”
But even as observers hoped that Tanzania's decision would ripple across Africa, sending a bigger message to poachers, the massacre of an entire family of 12 elephants in a Kenyan park Jan. 5 – the largest single killing ever here – shows how fragile protections across the continent still are for the creatures.
In October, Tanzania wished to sell ivory stockpiles valued at $55 million to China and Japan. The bid was set for debate in Bangkok this March at a Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). At the same time,Tanzania was planning to request to remove elephants from the highest level or “most endangered” species list to a lower category. Tanzania insists its ivory stock, weighing more than 100 tons, comes from dead or culled animals that were not poached.
But opposition to the sale from conservation groups and anti-crime lobbies proved too stiff, and by the end of December Tanzania withdrew its bid.
Anti-poachers argued that such a large volume of ivory, made suddenly available on the global market, would send all the wrong signals and further embolden illegal trade, smuggling, and poaching. Tanzania's withdrawal of sale was seen as indirectly supporting anti-poaching. More....