AFTER Tanzania categorically confirmed it would neither destroy nor put on sale its stockpile of ivory, the government in the UK has pledged to support the country to establish an inventory for safe and sound preservation of the 120 tonnes of elephant tusks.
British Foreign Office Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds gave the promise in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday during a joint news conference with the Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, and the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu.
"Since Tanzania has decided not to destroy the stockpile my government has found it ideal to support the country towards establishment of the inventory," Mr Simmonds said.
He added: "The government of UK and Prince Charles are very committed to supporting Tanzania's antipoaching drive. We do not want the future generations to see elephants from photos." Tanzania has been storing the stockpile at the ivory room within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism premises.
The tusks are those from jumbos which died of natural causes as well as those impounded from poachers. The country had on several occasions tried to ask the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to be allowed to sell the tusks in vain.
Early this year, President Jakaya Kikwete assured the world that the country was no longer interested to sell the stockpile. The British minister said there have been notable progress to thwart poaching and illegal wildlife trade following the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade that was held in February, this year.
"China, which has been perceived as the destined market for ivory attended the meeting and gave its commitment to join fights against the trade. There was a general consensus at the meeting that international cooperation is vital to curb the vice," he noted.
He expressed fear that proceeds from illegal wildlife trade are used to fund serious crimes worldwide and hence a need to restrain both the supply and demand of ivory and rhino horns.
The minister was in the country for a twoday official visit in which he also had an opportunity to tour the Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania accompanied by Minister Nyalandu.
"While in Selous I met with game rangers and witnessed the challenges that poaching brings and the hardships encountered by the rangers," Mr Simmonds stated. He hailed President Jakaya Kikwete and Minister Nyalandu for their commitment to end the poaching of elephants and rhinos.
Speaking at the occasion, Mr Nyalandu said the exact amount of funds to be provided by the UK would be known in the near future. "Experts from UK, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and CITES would jet into the country and assess funding needs for the inventory," the minister explained.
On the other hand, Minister Simmonds said Tanzania is one among five African countries with which the UK has signed a High Level Prosperity Partnership, focusing on four priority areas namely agriculture, extractive renewable energy and improving the business environment.
During the current financial year, the UK has provided Tanzania with 165 million pound sterling (about 196bn/-) for the development budget.