Kenya and the African elephant on Monday won a major victory after the ongoing UN conservation meeting in Qatar shot down proposals from Tanzania and Zambia to allow partial trade in ivory.
The first to be shot down was Tanzania’s proposal a few minutes after midday on Monday.
“The Tanzanian proposal has been rejected, which is a very encouraging sign for out efforts in the last few months,” an elated Mr Julius Kipng’etich told the Nation on phone from Doha on Monday.
Tanzania was asking to sell almost 200,000 pounds (90,000 kilogrammes) of ivory that would have generated as much as $20 million. It noted in its proposal that its elephant population has risen from about 55,000 in 1989 to almost 137,000, according to a 2007 study.
Fearing her proposal could go the Tanzania’s way, Zambia later on Monday hurriedly changed tack and withdrew its request to be allowed to make a one-off sale of its stockpiled ivory.
Zambia then opted to have its elephant population down-listed from Appendix I to Appendix II, but failed in a vote of 55 in favour, 36 against, 40 abstentions.
“Down-listing would have sent a horrible message to poachers and criminal syndicates,” said Mr Will Travers, of the Born Free Foundation soon after Zambia’s proposal was rejected. “I am relieved that Zambia’s revised proposal did not succeed, and this view is shared by the majority of African elephant range states.”
After the Zambian loss, it was all downstream for Kenya, which with some other 22 African countries, opposed any move to legalise any trade in ivory.
Kenya and her allies had also proposed a 20-year moratorium in ivory trade. Currently there is an existing nine-year ivory trade ban in place since 2007.
What the new development means is that the status quo remains… the nine-year moratorium and nobody sells ivory.
“After the Tanzanian and Zambian proposals were rejected, we did not see any need to present the demand for a 20-year moratorium. Actually this was our Plan B,” Mr Kipngetich said.
In any case, he said there was no way Kenya and her allies would have garnered the two thirds majority required to move such a proposal.
“This has taught us all some lessons, the major one being that we should have built consensus long before we came to Doha,” he said.
Though many efforts were made in Doha in the last few days to reconcile the two African positions, Mr Kipngetich said it was difficult for a party to change positions once they had left their countries.
Before the Kenyan delegation, led by the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr Noah Wekesa, left the country, President Kibaki had asked the country’s friends to support her position on the elephant.
“Tourism accounts for 21 per cent of the total foreign exchange earnings and 12 percent of GDP. Tourism resources must, therefore, be guarded fiercely, hence Kenya’s relentless conservation efforts,” President Kibaki said.
“I appeal to all friends of Kenya to support this call to save the African elephant and rhino from extinction,” he added in a speech while commissioning an electric fence protecting Aberdare National Park in central Kenya recently.
At the centre of the controversy has been a petition by Tanzania and Zambia to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to “down-list” the status of elephants so that they can sell stockpiled ivory on the open market.