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Tanzania Ministers lose sleep over wildlife poaching?

Tanzania has lost 25,000 to perhaps 30,000 elephants to ivory poachers over the past three years. Many illegal ivory shipments recently intercepted by Asian customs authorities all point to Tanzania as the source of the slaughtered elephants. Tanzania has applied to CITES to be able to legally sell over 100 tons of stockpiled ivory to the Asian consumers, and this application is to be considered by the CITES Convention of Parties in March 2013.

Thus leading to what many see as a contradiction and an incongruity – a nation unable to protect her elephants now applies to legally sell ivory to the nations heavily involved in the illegal trade? CITES has long stated that legal ivory sales need to at least be supported with credible evidence of a strong conservation record by the applicant state.

Tanzania is a great nation but needs to do better in terms of dedicated conservation of the wildlife resources that are so much a part of her national heritage. My grandfather-in-law, Mason Sears, was the USA member of the UN Trusteeship Council to advise on Tanzania’s independence, and placed justified trust in Julius Nyerere, the first President. “Mwalimu” – teacher – as he was called, recognized Tanzania’s wildlife as an important heritage for future generations of Tanzanians.

Nyerere’s vision for wildlife was certainly diluted by successive politicians. Tanzania now sits in the uncomfortable position of being 199th among world nations in terms of GDP per capita, having 80% of citizens living below the poverty line, being given a ranking of only 65 in terms of the Failed States Index, receiving a very low score of 152 on the UN Human Development Index, and receiving a low score of 35 on the Transparency International Perceived Corruption Index.

There is no doubt that Tanzania is in trouble. It is therefore highly encouraging that a new Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism (Hon. Khamis Kagesheki) has been appointed. It is also encouraging that the Assistant Minister had this to say:

“I want to assure you that I won’t sleep, and the Natural Resources and Tourism minister will not sleep until all the elephants and lions in the national parks and game reserves sleep undisturbed.” 

Well said Assistant Minister Lazaro Nyalandu. We look forward to establishing informed ways forward for lion conservation in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:44

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