Ivory Sink Hole

Ivory Sink Hole

Tanzania conservation authorities have plunged into quicksand and the sink hole could take all of East Africa with it.

This weekend Tanzania confirmed that it was aggressively trying to convince the 175 members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to approve the sale of elephant ivory.

All the surrounding countries except Zambia strongly condemned the announcement by Director of Wildlife Erasmus Tarimo.

Kenya pointed out this was Tanzania’s worst year for elephant poaching in more than two decades. The announcement also followed a sad report Thursday that 12 rhinos had been poached in what had been considered the poaching-free park of Kruger in South Africa.

The United States has yet to take sides. This is a very troubling matter. The convention opens next month.

The irony is that one of the reasons Tanzania wants sales to be allowed is because it has confiscated so much illegal ivory just this year. Tarimo says the country is warehousing more than 90 tonnes of elephant tusks.

Based on the last such auctioned sale, that could be worth $20 million.

But the cycle of irony is self-perpetuating. If Tanzania gets to sell its ivory, there is likely to be more poaching as the market for ivory widens. Tanzania will confiscate more illegal ivory. Tanzania is discovering a mafia-like way to reap the rewards from what it claims is wrong.

”They (Cites) will track down our record in the past ten years to see history of elephants in the country,” Tarimo said, noting that the species have been increasing over the last ten years.

And you can be certain the Kenyans will highlight the horrible “history of elephant poaching in Tanzania” just this year alone.

All the countries in Africa with elephants hold large stockpiles of ivory, including Kenya. The southern African countries, which have historically managed anti-poaching infinitely better than the rest of the continent, have continually argued for controlled auctioned sales of ivory.

CITES has allowed three such sales, but never from the East African market.