Stakeholders are concerned that Tanzanian government spends up to $75,000 per annum to preserve the ivory stockpile, which is estimated at 120 tonnes.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, coordinator of a campaign dubbed ‘Okoa Tembo wa Tanzania’ Shubert Mwarabu said that keeping the ivory would likely encourage and fuel illegal ivory trade. He said the funds could instead be channelled to improving other services in the tourism sector.
Okoa Tembo wa Tanzania is a group of Tanzanians campaigning for government action to protect elephants.
Mwarabu said the campaign also pushes the government to arrest and arraign the kingpins of ivory trade. He noted that illegal ivory trade had contributed to a decrease of elephants in Africa and Tanzania in particular.
He said about 144,000 elephants were killed in 18 African countries between 2007 and 2014, a decrease of nearly 30 per cent.
“We want the government to arrest and prosecute major ivory traders in our country regardless of their prominence. The government should use its existing bilateral friendship with China to convince China to end its domestic ivory trade,” said Mwarabu.
He said that in 1999, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were allowed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to sell their ivory to China, Hong Kong and Japan.
He said such selling of ivory, which was repeated in 2008, fuelled poaching in many countries in 2011, including Tanzania.
Imani Zahoro, a member of Okoa Tembo wa Tanzania campaign, called on the government to request other countries such as Korea and Taiwan to close their ivory markets.
According to Zahoro, in the year 2015 China, Hong Kong and United States of America (USA), which are among the world’s largest ivory markets, announced to close their domestic ivory trade in favour of the elephants.
Another member, Jenifer Mboya, applauded government efforts in the fight against poaching, urging for the arrest and arraignment of poachers. She said reports showed that 8,030 suspects were arrested in 2014/2015 and 2,0179 suspects in 2015/2016.
A recent elephant census conducted by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) indicates a huge decrease in the number of elephants where in 1979 there were 316,300 elephants, but the number had dropped to 50,443 in 2015.
In March 2016, Dr. Jumanne Maghembe, minister for Natural Resources and Tourism,said that Tanzania would not destroy its ivory stockpile.
The minister argued that selling the stockpile would put elephants in more danger. He said the country was bound by CITES regulations and so it could not sell its ivory stockpile nor sell poached ivory.