Opponents of the proposed sale of ivory by Zambia and Tanzania took fresh hope and made snipe remarks over comments attributed to the Tanzanian minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, when she let it slip that only part of the proceeds were to go to conservation, leaving the question open where the balance, and in fact what balance – major or minor – was to go.
Opponents of the application to CITES, which is due to meet in Doha for their regular convention, have in the past alleged that the two CITES members, Zambia and Tanzania, were not paying enough attention to the regular trend of increased poaching just as soon as the ban on trade in ivory was partially lifted, as seen most recently when Southern African countries won such concessions, and poaching of elephant increased fourfold over the space of two years in Kenya, in spite of increased anti-poaching patrols. The same opponents also accused governments that the proceeds would in any case not benefit conservation bodies and activities to 100 percent of the sales proceeds, an allegation now apparently confirmed by the ill-thought-out comments of the Tanzanian minister. The opponents will undoubtedly use this lapse to make more noises ahead of the Doha conference, while others may yet seek clarification from the minister exactly what proportion of the proposed sales proceeds was to go to conservation, and where the balance of such funds would be diverted to, and why not all such funds would go to conservation. And as one regular commenter to this correspondent asked: “Just where are we with poaching numbers in Tanzania? And when poached tusks are confiscated, is this also then becoming legal ivory stocks by the definition of our government?”
On a positive note, however, 11,615 signatures have been procured on a petition against the sale by leading East African and international conservationists, which was authored by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and which will be formally presented to the CITES meeting in Doha in two weeks time. Needless to mention that this correspondent, too, did sign, as did reportedly a number of regular eTN readers in the region according to information sent to in over recent days. Well done indeed to all for this effort.
Meanwhile, it was learned that in view of the critical importance of the Doha meeting, the Kenyan minister responsible for wildlife has been exempted from a travel ban imposed on the Kenyan cabinet by President Kibaki to permit him to attend the meeting and lead the opposition formulated by 23 African nations against the lifting in any form of the ban on the trade in ivory, which has been termed as a showdown between Kenya and Tanzania, but which, in fact, is part of a much wider struggle and different schools of thought when it comes to conservation and in particular the protection of elephant.
Anti-sale pressure groups are already in full action to lobby support from major global players, with several of them just concluding a tour of the United States and Europe, while the pro-sale groups can largely count on the support from – who else – China and Japan, both countries of which are themselves under harsh criticism over the whaling policy (Japan) and their greed and boundless hunger for ever more ivory (China). As the CITES conference is underway and progresses, it will be interesting to see how the debates rage on and if the CITES secretariat will be able to be fair and just, contrary to allegations made in the past that they were biased towards selling ivory stocks.