14 January 2014

Tanzania: Dar Still to Decide On Ivory Stockpiles

Arusha — BARELY a week after China destroyed consignments of seized African elephants' tusks, with their related products, Tanzania is yet to decide on what exactly it should do with its own ivory stockpile.

Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu said the country has a bulging stockpile of elephant tusks stored safely in state warehouses, but what Tanzania is going to do with them is something which hasn't been decided yet.

Apparently, destroying the 'white gold' seems to be out of question. Two years ago, the whole world raised hell when Dar requested permission from international communities to sell off the ivory stockpile, currently weighing over 100 metric tonnes and counting.

Thousands of stored elephant tusks that have been accumulating over the past 25 years, are estimated to be valued at US $60 million or nearly 100 billion/-.

Experts point out that the cost of storing and heavily guarding these highly sought ivories will in the long last prove to be too high for the country to afford.

"The hoard consists of legally accumulated tusks from animals that expired naturally and ivories confiscated from people who harvested them illegally through killing the jumbos," explained Mr Nyalandu, adding that all consignments were being treated as state trophies owned by the People of Tanzania.

In 2011, the immediate neighbour, Kenya, set ablaze more than five tonnes of the country's ivory tusks consignments and related trinkets.

Tanzania has not agreed to burn its stockpile of ivory, arguing that the money from selling them could support conservation efforts.

The country had previously requested the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for an exception to the ivory ban for such a sale, with proceeds used only for conservation efforts, but the request was withdrawn last year.

Last week, China crushed into powder more than six metric tonnes of tusks, ivory ornaments and carvings in a highly lauded exercise which took place in southern Guangdong province, where much of China's ivory trade is focused.

Reports had that the destroyed ivory were confiscated shipments from Africa intercepted by customs officers as well as those from some 400 carving factories and shops in China.

The crushed tusks and related products, however, represented just a portion of the illegal ivory in China, which is described to be the world's biggest market for elephant tusks, whose smuggling into the country increases by 10 per cent each year.

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