THE African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has commended the government's recent decision to withdraw its proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to sell some of its ivory stockpile.
"By withdrawing this controversial proposal, Tanzania has reaffirmed its commitment to protect species integral to natural ecosystems and one that the tourism industry depends on, said AWF Chief Executive Officer Patrick Bergin.
"The decision is an important step in the right direction to curb demand and stop the killing, but the issue of illegal ivory trafficking in Tanzania remains of great concern as elephants are still being killed at an alarming rate," added Mr Bergin.
He reaffirmed the AWF commitment to collaborate with wildlife authorities and local partners across the continent to maximize anti-poaching efforts that combat the illegal wildlife trade. Tanzania holds one of the largest elephant populations in Africa.
CITES is the international agreement that regulates the trade of endangered plants and wildlife; more than 176 countries are signatories. Ahead of CITES' 16th Conference of Parties scheduled for March 3-14 in Bangkok, Thailand, Tanzania had submitted a proposal to downlist the status of the country's elephants and to allow a one-time sale of more than 100 tonnes of ivory to China and Japan.
The government's decision to withdraw the proposal comes in the midst of an elephantpoaching crisis stemming from a growing demand for ivory primarily in Asia. Upon withdrawal of its proposal, the Tanzanian government stated that it had planned to use the profits to fund elephant conservation projects.
CITES allowed ivory sales by other African countries in 1997 and 2008 but rejected a similar proposal submitted by Tanzania in 2010.