IVORY BURN OR SELL, THE CONTROVERSY RAGES ON
The white gold as ivory is also known, is living up to its billing as the price of the contraband commodity has shot through the proverbial roof in recent years, and keeps climbing. This development has fueled the greed of potential sellers of ivory just as the economic boom in China and other tiger economies has fueled the greed for blood ivory to be turned into intricate carvings, ornaments and even such mundane items like seals, chops sticks and serviette rings. Subsequently have applications for one off sales come to CITES, at times granted and at times refused, inevitably drawing emotional reactions by the conservation fraternity. One off sales of so called legal ivory only fuels poaching claims a regular conservation source from Tanzania, a claim supported by poaching trends whenever such authorization had been granted in the past, but gone out of control now as the supply of legal ivory, held by governments has literally dried up.
Hundreds of tons of such ivory are kept in strong-rooms from Eastern Africa to Southern Africa and as more and more accumulates, pressure is growing on CITES to permit regulated sales. Legal ivory consists of tusks found in the wild from elephant which died of old age or disease but this has been supplemented by ivory confiscated from poachers or seized while in transit or at ports and airports and here lies the contentious issue. Conservationists do not want such ivory to end up being sold, as it would ultimately reward those wishing to buy the white gold with their demand causing the poaching in the first place. A sale, it has been said, would give those unscrupulous buyers the wanted result, either by illegal shipment of blood ivory getting through all the controls or else when eventually legally buying it from governments which obtain clearance from CITES.
The last CITES General Assembly in Doha in March last year turned down requests by Zambia and Tanzania for one off permissions, leaving about 20 and 90 tons of ivory respectively gathering more dust, and costing money in the process to keep it safe, more than enough reason for Tanzania to have already declared their intention to re-apply ahead of the next CITES meeting. Tanzanias natural resources and tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, already on record of denouncing Kenyas recent ivory burning, and who was soon afterwards claiming that burning ivory will not stop the poaching, has since drafted in academics from the university of Dar es Salaam to strengthen his case. At least two are on record now giving their expert opinion and supporting the ministers rationale of burning being bad and selling being good, all of course entirely focused on the amount of money which can be made and at the very least a thinly concealed attempt to garner favour with a politician rather than offering new insights or solutions to the rampage amongst elephant and rhinos caused by poachers. Conservationists have subsequently dismissed the experts for a lack of understanding the complex issues surrounding the unprecedented upsurge in poaching on the continent and how best to combat the demand for ivory in the consumer markets through stricter legislation and robust enforcement measures, and not by feeding the frenzy through selling ivory which in the words of a well respected conservation guru was like pouring blood into shark filled waters. The emphasis must be fourfold, to reduce and eliminate demand in the key consumer countries like China, to disrupt and dismantle the transportation pipeline through which ivory and rhino horn are smuggled and to step up anti poaching operations in the affected areas. Let the poachers know that they are met with overwhelming force and risk their own life if they choose to go after elephant, rhinos and other game. Finally, fines must be so stiff that it bankrupts the culprits and prison terms to long that it serves as a deterrent, applicable to not just poachers but those who finance them and buy from them too. If those four measures, and there are others of course, are implemented we stand a chance to reverse the trend, otherwise we lose the war on poaching and our tourism industry will be lacking the attractions of wildlife based tourism sooner than later.
True enough adds this correspondent in closing, but will the two positions reconcile somewhere, meet in the middle and find common ground when there is so much money at stake and when those who so relentlessly push for the legalization of the sale of ivory can make quite a bit on the side for advocacy and consulting. Time will tell, so watch this space for the next chapter on this long running saga.
Archive for October 24th, 2011
IVORY BURN OR SELL, THE CONTROVERSY RAGES ON
Kenya breaking news – Grenade attack on bar leaves 14 injured, no details available on motives or perpetrators
AT LEAST 14 INJURED FOLLOWING A GRENADE EXPLOSION AT MWAURAS BAR
Kenyans will be waking up to shock news that an apparent grenade attack on a local bar in Nairobi has left at least 14 injured, some of them seriously. The attack occurred around 3 a.m. when the bar was already closed but patrons inside continued to drink. Only recently was a controversial law passed in Kenya which prohibits after hour drinking and private club and bar owners have resorted to private parties to circumvent arrests, closures and license forfeitures.
While at this time of the night no one was available to give any official comment, other scribes on duty speculated openly on Twitter and other social media over both motive and perpetrators of the attack.
Al Shabab, Somalias best known Islamist terror and militia group, had threatened reprisals and revenge attacks in Kenya following the TGF sanctioned cross border operation by the Kenyan army, navy and air force and while security was visibly stepped up in rated hotels and resorts, businesses and office buildings, public places and restaurants, some of the smaller local establishments may have been slow in following recommendations by Kenyas security organs of how to improve safety. Last weekend had the American Embassy warned their citizens of an imminent and credible terror threat in Kenya, but the way these news were broken left official Kenya upset over the format though government was not denying that increased vigilance and surveillance was needed to prevent any incident.
Sketchy reports from Nairobi suggest that someone tried to enter the bar and when not successful threw the grenade inside before fleeing the scene. It is presently unknown if this was a simple criminal attack, based on business rivalries as has been the case before or else a terror attack carried out by Al Shabab sympathizers, although the haphazard way it was carried out could suggest that it was not done by a trained terrorist. Watch this space for updates.
ANTI TRAVEL ADVISORIES SETTLING OLD SCORES OR NEW SCORES OR WHAT
Reactions from Nairobi were swift and mostly acid over the warning issued by the US Embassy to their nationals living in Kenya over the increased if not imminent risk of a terror attack, and none was complimentary as could be expected: A case for increased vigilance, absolutely yes, a case for this type of paranoia knee jerk reaction, absolutely no. We take exception that a self professed friendly nation could sensationalize a warning like they did, it is disrespectful for our country and what does it achieve, as if we would live in a vacuum and not know. We are at war with Somalias militants, where the US is also directly involved with drones and by other means. They wanted us to do that for a long time and now that we are engaging the militants it is almost as if the US Embassy has stabbed us in the back. Why this format when they know it leaks, maybe it was meant to leak? We are all aware of the need for extra security now and government and private sector have really stepped this up so what is it the US Embassy tries to accomplish other than hurting us economically when we need every shilling we can earn, every job we can create or maintain? For me I can only say who needs friends like those? was the sentiment of a regular contributor of information and background from Nairobi echoed across the entire spectrum of contacts in Kenya. It is becoming like a fortress now wherever one goes to prevent Al Shabab doing in Kenya what they did to you in Uganda last year. They are facing a military defeat on the ground where they are now fighting on several fronts. When Kismayu falls they will have lost their biggest stronghold and because they are animals with no respect for the Geneva Convention they will try to commit terror acts. It is important to capture or destroy their leadership and cut off the head of that snake because when Somalia is at peace all the risks for neighbouring countries will reduce. The militants will run back to other hideouts and have to be pursued to the end said another.
Official sources from the tourism sector declined to comment on record but did express in private their disappointment with this latest US advisorys format and timing. Sources from the Kenyan coast also impressed upon this correspondent that beach resorts from Malindi to the border with Tanzania at Shimoni have all stepped up entrance and perimeter controls and surveillance and the beaches were now being patrolled by both uniformed and plain cloth security operatives day and night. Said a former senior stakeholder representative on condition of anonymity: All possible is being done to ensure the safety and security of our visitors and of our fellow Kenyans. Advisories like this one, which made its way like wildfire around the globe, are not really very helpful and we would expect them to emphasize on the practical assistance and security cooperation we have with the US rather than the negative side all the time.
This correspondent also feels that ally bashing is not the best way forward and only opens the door for suspicions and allegations about ulterior motives, as was the case when the US government only hours before the Delta inaugural flight to Nairobi withdrew permission for the service, citing security concerns, which notably did not affect any other of the global airlines flying to Nairobi. Watch this space.