Kenya will campaign for a total ban on ivory trade at an international meeting on wildlife conservation scheduled for March, as its herds of elephants continue to be endangered by poaching.
The position is likely to anger Tanzania which is pushing for a new trading window to allow it to sell its ivory stockpile to fund conservation measures. Other countries likely to team up with Tanzania include Zambia, which has put up a similar petition while previous beneficiaries; Botswana, Namibia, south Africa and Zimbabwe are quiet.
Since the drive to save the African elephant picked up in 1980s, Kenya has been playing a lead role in calling for a total ban and dramatised its wish by burning its stockpile worth millions of shillings in the Nairobi National Park.
The Qatar Conference is the 15th such meeting of the parties that have signed the Convention on International Traded in International Species (CITES). “We oppose any trade in endangered species especially elephant and rhino tasks,” said Julius Kipng’etich, the Director of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
He said the opening up of a small window could lead to increased poaching in the region. But while the country has remained firm that it will oppose the lifting of the ban imposed in 2007, Zambia and Tanzania have asked for an exemption to the 1989 ban on ivory trade, which was put in place to protect the African elephant and rhino, whose population was decreasing due to increased poaching.
But Kenya argues that giving a window to make such sales would only whet the market’s appetites increasing poaching in the region.
Wildlife minister Noah Wekesa recently said Kenya was not consulted by Tanzania and yet the two countries share national parks like Amboseli and Mt Kilimanjaro.
Due to a similar eco-system, Kenya was likely to lose more rhinos and elephants to poachers, he said when he received four rhinos from Europe recently.
Already Kenya has witnessed increased poaching activities of the two animals with 145 elephants being poached in 2008 compared to 47 in 2007. In 2009 the country lost over 200 elephants.
Kenya saw its elephant population drop from 168,000 in 1969 to only 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching activities but has managed to increase the population to 35,000 since the ban , while the rhino population stands at just over 600 compared to 400 in 1989.
Tanzania and Zambia submitted proposals for amendment of Appendices I and II submitted in November 2009.
Both countries insist on a one-off sale of its ivory stock pile, excluding seized ivory and that of unknown origin, with the proceeds from the trade being used exclusively for elephant and community conservation as well as for development programmes.
Tanzania wants to sell 89,848 Kilograms of its stockpile while Zambia is looking at 21,692 kilograms as well as raw hides.
These proposals have met resistance from Kenya as well as Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
The current diverging views reflect a similar debate that played out during the last CITES conference in June 2007 when Southern African countries — South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana — wanted the ban lifted.
The countries got a window for a one-off sale of 1.8 tonnes of ivory to buyers in China and Japan as a compromise.
The increased loss of elephants in Kenya in 2008 has been attributed by KWS to the one-off sale made by the southern African countries.
The country along with other opposing states say that if the window is opened up again the demand will only increase unless DNA tests are done to identify each and every ivory sold in the market to properly identify its origin.