31 October 2012

Tanzania: Fight Against Illegal Ivory Trade Needs Collective Efforts

Photo: The Daily News
The Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki


ILLEGAL trade in ivory is apparently a huge, lucrative and extremely intricate venture. In a little less than two weeks police in Tanzania and Hong Kong have seized elephant tusks worth billions of shillings suspected to have been smuggled from Tanzania.

More alarmingly is the number of elephants that had to be killed by poachers and ivory hunters to get the quantity of the tusks seized. It only goes to show that poaching remains a serious problem in the country despite efforts to restrict international trade on ivory.

As the traders continue to thrive, countries like Tanzania continue to lose in a myriad of ways, including serious decline in elephant population which in turn disturb the balance in the ecosystem. Poaching, however, also causes loss of human life, denies the government revenue, fuels corruption and the breakdown of law and order where illegal trade in ivory flourishes.

It may not be prudent to chastise governments at this juncture, but as a country where the ivories originate, we do not seem to benefit in any manner. It would be wise then to seriously look into who benefits from the illegal trade and take the fight to them. At best, all those involved should be viewed as criminals.

And since the players appear to have created a complex syndicate, governments have to display similar backbone by showing serious resolve in the fight against illegal trade in ivory. According to reports, most of the ivory these days is used for making items that are a show of exotic wealth. Since1980s, it is said that Japan consumes about 40 per cent of the global trade.

Another 40 per wcent is consumed by Europe and North America, often worked in Hong Kong, which is the largest trade hub, with most of the rest remaining in Africa. But African countries including Tanzania pay a far higher price as a result of the trade than any part of the world.

As evinced by those arrested this week in Dar es Salaam, they use the finances from the lucrative trade to buy their way out of trouble and ensure that their ventures flourish. As it was reported, one of those arrested tried to bribe a policeman with 15m/- to release them.

Recent arrests in Hong Kong and Dar es Salaam should serve as a breakthrough. Governments and the international community need to bolster cooperation to end the trade that continues to have adverse effects on the economies of African countries. Police have so far done a commendable job, but authorities should not be too complacent. The lengths to which the traders are willing to go just to have their ways should be enough for authorities to be more vigilant.

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