(DOHA)—Support for Tanzania’s proposal to weaken international protection for African elephants and trade internationally in nearly 90 tonnes of ivory appears to be evaporating at the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar this week. In breaking news from the conference hall, the CITES Secretariat has issued a statement opposing the Tanzania proposal. The CITES Secretariat has expressed concern about enforcement and compliance in Tanzania and that “anti-poaching efforts in some parts of the country seem inadequate, the ivory stocks cannot be fully verified, and controls of illegal trade in raw ivory originating from or transiting through the United Republic of Tanzania appear to be unsatisfactory.” Shelley Waterland, Programmes Manager of the Born Free Foundation and Chair of the Species Survival Network’s Elephant Working Group said, “The weight of evidence stacked against Tanzania’s foolhardy potential adventure into ivory trading is overwhelming. Institutional corruption, the loss of more than 30,000 elephants in just 3 years, inadequate security measures, and the impact that ivory trade would have on the security of elephants across the continent all justify rejection of the Tanzania proposal.”
A CITES Panel of Experts team has recently returned from inspecting conditions in Tanzania where they found the following alarming evidence:
The Tanzanian elephant population has fallen by 24% (more than 33,000 elephants) between 2006 and 2009.
The country has the highest level of involvement in illegal ivory trade in Africa.
Corruption is said to involve officials in the Customs, Anti-poaching and Wildlife Departments.
Prosecution rates are low and sentences inadequate deterrents to discourage poachers.
The Species Survival Network again calls on the Republic of Tanzania to withdraw its proposal for the good of elephant conservation. Further, given the widespread opposition to ivory trade from the African Elephant Coalition (22 countries), Tanzania should withdraw in the name of African unity.
– Tanzania’s Elephant Population: 108,816 (definite) plus 27,937 (probable) in Tanzania (IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group 2007), although given the findings of the Panel of Experts (2010), the number is likely to be considerably lower today.
– Threats: Poaching, illegal trade, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict and civil unrest.
– Poaching is a significant problem threatening populations in the country: a total of 11,678kg of ivory seized in 2009 is reported to have originated in Tanzania; in addition, DNA analysis has identified the Selous Ecosystem in Tanzania (spilling over to Niassa Game Reserve in Mozambique) as the source of 5.2 tons of ivory seized in Taiwan and 2.6 tons in Hong Kong in 2006 (Wasser et al. 2009)