Tanzania's elephant population will fall to 55,000 animals by late 2015 due to resurgence of poaching, down from about 142,000 animals in 2005, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in a report issued Thursday (November 6th).
The escalation in poaching was first noted in 2009, the report said, but there are indicators it began up to four years earlier.
"Between 2009-13, there has been a devastating decline," the report said. "The Selous population fell by 66% in just over four years. Based on available evidence, Tanzania has lost more elephants to poaching during this period than any other country. In 2013 alone, it reportedly lost 10,000 elephants, equivalent to 30 a day."
Tanzania's elephants continue to be poached to supply a growing demand in an unregulated illegal ivory market, predominantly in China, the report said.
"Without a zero-tolerance approach, the future of Tanzania's elephants and its tourism industry are precarious," the report said. "The ivory trade must be disrupted at all levels of criminality, the entire prosecution chain needs to be systemically restructured and all stakeholders, including communities exploited by the criminal syndicates and those on the front lines of enforcement, given unequivocal support."
"All trade in ivory should be resolutely banned, especially in China," it said.
The EIA has accused Chinese officials of buying large quantities of ivory during state visits to Tanzania.
Ivory traders told the EIA that the price of ivory doubled, to $700 per kilogramme, during Chinese President Xi Jinping's 2013 visit to Dar es Salaam.
The report said similar sales were recorded during trips by President Hu Jintao, and that Chinese embassy employees had been "major buyers" of ivory since 2006.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei described the report as "groundless" at a regular briefing in Beijing Thursday, adding that China was "strongly dissatisfied" with it.