Esteemed President Dr. John P. Magufuli,
We congratulate you on your successes in your first months in office as our nation's Fifth President.
As you are aware, Tanzania is in the midst of an elephant poaching crisis. In the past five years, over half of our country’s elephants have been killed. This slaughter of our elephants is not only a tragic loss of our natural heritage, it also presents a serious threat to wildlife tourism in our country.
Okoa Tembo wa Tanzania is a group of Tanzanians campaigning for three specific government actions for the protection of elephants in Tanzania. These actions include the arrest and prosecution of the major ivory traders in Tanzania, and to use our country's historic friendship with China to end China's domestic ivory trade as a matter of urgency.
In this letter, we request the rapid implementation of the third goal of our campaign: the destruction of Tanzania’s ivory stockpile.
With regret we read the statement of Dr. Maghembe, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism (March 2016), that Tanzania would not destroy its ivory stockpile. We believe this decision is a grave mistake for our country, and we ask that you reconsider.
The main argument we hear against destroying the stockpile is that Tanzania could earn funds for conservation from its sale, but we believe selling the stockpile would put our elephants in more danger. Bound by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Tanzania cannot currently sell its ivory stockpile, nor can it ever sell poached ivory. 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 resurgence of illegal ivory trade. 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.
Even China and Hong Kong, which are among the world's largest ivory markets, have recognized that elephants have no future if there is no end to the ivory trade. Indeed, China and the USA announced in 2015 that they will phase our their domestic ivory trade. With so many ivory markets closing around the world, we must ask ourselves, who does Tanzania plan to sell its ivory to?
There is a growing movement across the world that recognizes that destroying ivory stockpiles 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. Many African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Gabon, Mozambique and Congo have already demonstrated their commitment by destroying or pledging to destroy their stockpiles. They were widely applauded for doing so, and destruction of the stockpiles catalyzed donor support for conservation and anti-poaching.
On 30th April 2016, Kenya leads the world by destroying its entire stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horn. We applaud this historic achievement, which represents the largest destruction ever of ivory - with over 106 tons being burnt.
We call on the Government of Tanzania to follow the example of our neighbours and other African countries and make history by destroying its ivory stockpile, which is even larger than Kenya's. Of course, it is important to conduct an inventory of the stockpile and allow for scientific research for law enforcement purposes before its destruction. Any ivory samples needed for prosecution in court cases should be stored, but destroyed immediately after completion of the case.
As for storing ivory in museums, we believe it is more important to ensure our nation's grandchildren will be able to experience live elephants in the wild, than for them to see tusks stored in museums as a testament to the tragic loss of the elephants that once lived in our country.
The future of elephants is in our hands. On behalf of the 100,000 citizens who support our campaign on Facebook, we call on you, Mr President, to destroy the ivory stockpile and do justice to your election slogan: "HAPA KAZI TU”.
Peter Lijualikali Member of Parliament and Shadow Environment Minister
Zitto Kabwe Member of Parliament, ACT
Vanessa Mdee WildAid Ambassador
Millard Ayo Clouds Media Group
Ponjoli Joram Natural Resources Project Officer, Delegation of the European Union
Charles Hillary Editor, Azam Media
Noah Mpunga Director, WCS Southern Highlands Conservation Program
Vedasto Msungu Environmental Journalist, ITV and Radio ONE
Wallace Maugo Editor, The Guardian
Florence Majani Deputy Editor, Mwananchi Communications
Wasiwasi Mwabulambo Programmes Manager, Azam Media
Hudson Kamoga Journalist
Andimile Martin Conservationist
Imani Kajula CEO, EAG Group
David Kabambo Director, Peace for Conservation
Lasway Romane Lecturer, National Institute of Tourism
Josiah Mshuda Director, DONET
Monica Lumambo Chairperson, KINET
Damien Kosei Secretary-General, BAENET
Dativa Kimolo Chairperson, DACENET
Said Mjui Guardian, Mtamako
Beda Kihindo Education Officer, TALGWU
Pierre Nyakwaka Planning Officer, Jiendeleze Trust
George Mtemahanji CEO, Sun Sweet Solar
Arafat Mtui Coordinator, Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center
Pima Nyenga Director, Association Mazingira
Lameck Mkuburo Elephant Researcher, Southern Tanzania Elephant Program
Jenipha Mboya Researcher, Southern Tanzania Elephant Program
Shubert Mwarabu Me Against Poaching
Meyassi Meshillieck Director, Serengeti Preservation Foundation
Abbas Mvungi Director, Friends and Protectors of Wildlife
Mckene Ngoroma Director, ECO Footprints TZ