By James Kandoya
The Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources has called on the Chinese government to extend the timeframe of freezing the importation of ivory carvings, a practise which decimates the African elephant population.
The Chinese Government recently issued a one year ban on the importation of ivory carvings after being criticised by the International Wildlife Organisation. Tourism and Natural Resources Minister, Lazaro Nyalandu, made the new appeal for increased protection of the endangered species in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday. The minister was speaking to mark the International Wildlife Day where his office received two Toyota Land Cruisers from Mantra Tanzania worth 195m/-, demonstrating their support for anti poaching efforts. Appealing to the government, Nyalandu said extending China’s ban on importation of ivory will give more time to the stakeholders to value its effectiveness in protecting African elephants. However, Nyalandu noted that the moratorium would do little to slow thesurge in poaching that has killed 100,000 African elephants in three years,and so concerted efforts are still needed. “There has been a reported increase in ivory carvings imports trades recently in Asian states, especially those of the Far East. I call on other Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Honk Kong to do the same as China and freeze ivory trade. I’m sure once all countries suspend their businesses, African elephants will be protected,” he said. China’s temporary ivory trade ban was announced on February 26 this year but international conservation organisations criticised the move as it does not in any way affect China’s legal domestic ivory trade. Therefore it has led to an increase in the price of ivory, providing legal camouflage for a booming trade of illicit ivory, smuggled into China’s licensed carving factories and stores. International wildlife groups have long accused Beijing of deliberately ignoring China’s prime role in the illegal ivory trade, which has soared since officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species permitted China to buy 68 tons of African ivory in 2008. Chinese officials had lobbied hard to win permission for a legal domestic trade in ivory, claiming that it would save elephant herds by flooding the market with approved inventory, thus undercutting poachers. Instead, the slaughter has expanded as the price of ivory in China tripled in just four years since 2010, according to the organisation Save the Elephants. For his part, Mantra Managing Director Frederick Kibodya said the motor vehicles given on International Wildlife Day will help game rangers to fight against poachers. “We are committed to provide training to game rangers so as to build their capacity,” Kibodya said. Mantra also operates air surveillance, using planes to detect animal poachers in Selous game reserves and other neighboring ones.