TANZANIA is among eight member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which have been placed on the list of worst offenders in ivory trade likely to face trade restrictions.
World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Policy Analyst for International Wildlife Trade, Dr Colman O Criodain told the 'Sunday News' last week that Tanzania, alongside Kenya and Uganda, have been given a grace period, during which to implement time-bound plans to curb ivory trade."In Tanzania's case, the basis of concern is her role as a transit country for large-scale illegal ivory shipments.
There is evidence that the consignments either originated in or passed through Tanzania. Only a tiny fraction of the seizures were made within the country.
This points to a failure to stop large-scale ivory shipments at the country's ports," said Dr Criodain citing a recent CITES warning to the eight countries.He said it should also be noted that, while Tanzania's elephant population is indeed one of the largest in Africa, poaching in some areas, such as Selous Game Reserve is a concern to CITES members.
During the grace period, Dar es Salaam will have to submit an action plan to combat illegal ivory trade to CITES secretariat by 15 May and a decision will be made whether sanctions should be imposed or not, depending on the content of the action plan and the steps taken to implement it.
"A decision to impose sanctions (consisting of a suspension of trade in CITES-listed species with Tanzania) would be taken by the CITES Standing Committee, with input from the CITES Secretariat," Dr Criodain said in an emailed response to 'Sunday News' which sought to know what the CITES reprimand meant.
The WWF Policy Analyst however dismissed the possibility of Dar es Salaam being blacklisted by CITES saying stakeholders will be engaging with the standing committee in an effort to ensure that all eight countries show significant and measurable progress by summer of next year at the latest, when a week-long formal meeting of the Committee will take place in Geneva.
"Obviously we would much prefer to see such progress than to see sanctions imposed," he stressed.Tanzania is one of eight countries identified by the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) as being of greatest concern with respect to their role in the illegal ivory trade chain. The others are Philippines, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Thailand and China.
Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki said he was aware of the CITES threat and promised to give his position in a few days to come. "I am currently not feeling well, I will invite you when I get back to office," Mr Kagasheki who has vowed to tame illegal ivory trade since taking over the ministry mid last year, said.
In a statement posted on its website at the end of CITES summit held in Bangkok, Thailand last month, the Geneva based watchdog of endangered species of world fauna and flora, said, "Under CITES rules, failure by those countries to take action would lead to a compliance process potentially leading to sanctions. The treaty allows CITES member states to recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from orchids to crocodile skins."
Kisarawe district officials told the 'Sunday News' recently that poaching is rife in the Selous Game Reserve but they have no mandate to control it as it falls under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
"We have not power over the part of the reserve that is in our district, we are only considered as stakeholders," said Adam Ng'imba, Kisarawe District Council Chairman.
Conservation experts say 70 elephants are killed in Selous on a daily basis, with dealers from China, Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries paying 300 US dollars per kilogramme of ivory. This has contributed to laxity on the part of the regulators.