Tanzania’s elephants are in crisis.
Fifty years ago, there were up to 300,000 elephants in Tanzania. In 2009, there were 109,000. In 2015, there were only an estimated 50,000 elephants left (TAWIRI official census results). The reason for this drastic decline is the ivory trade, and a recent rise in the demand for ivory in consumer countries, particularly China. The elephant poaching crisis is destroying Tanzania’s natural heritage, and poses serious threats to the wildlife tourism industry that is so important to the nation’s economy.
This campaign aims to unite Tanzanian voices against the elephant poaching crisis and to urge for action at home to bring the crisis to an end.
The Goals of the Campaign
The campaign aims to win the commitment of the Government to take the following three actions:
1. Government commitment to arrest and prosecute the major ivory traders operating in the country.
By prosecuting the major ivory traders, we remove locally the incentives and means to poach elephants. The prosecution of traders will break down poaching networks, and deter others from becoming involved in poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
2. Government commitment to support the closing of domestic ivory markets in China and to support a continued international ivory trade ban.
In December 2016, China announced that it will close its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017. Prior to this announcement, China was the largest consumer of ivory. In China and in other countries such as Vietnam and the Phillippines, legal domestic trade in ivory acts as a cover for the illegal ivory trade that is the ultimate cause of Tanzania’s elephant poaching crisis.
3. Government commitment to destroy Tanzania’s ivory stockpile.
Bound by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Tanzania cannot currently sell its ivory stockpile. In 2014, Tanzania signed up to the Elephant Protection Initiative, placing a moratorium on selling ivory for 10 years. However while the stockpile exists, it provides encouragement to illegal ivory traders that trade will resume. The sale of ivory stockpiles is incompatible with a global ivory trade ban, and past sales of ivory stockpiles have driven the illegal ivory trade. Destroying the stockpile sends a strong message to elephant poachers, ivory traders, and consumers that ivory has no monetary value, and that the poaching of elephants is an unacceptable crime.
Tanzania’s stockpile is expensive to maintain and secure – to store this ivory indefinitely is a drain on the national budget.
Many African countries have shown their commitment by destroying stockpiles. They were widely applauded for doing so, and destruction of the stockpiles catalyzed donor support for conservation and anti-poaching.
Many more conservation dollars can be won through wildlife tourism – a revenue source that is growing, sustainable, and beneficial to many Tanzanian citizens in the long-term – than through the one-off sale of the nation’s ivory stockpile, which would only fuel more poaching and accelerate the extinction of elephants in Tanzania.