Tanzania, home to one of the world's largest elephant populations, has again asked to be allowed to sell part of its stockpiled ivory after a 2010 bid to do so failed, a minister said Saturday.
"We want to sell part of the stockpile. We plan to use revenue from the sale to beef up our measures to fight elephant poaching, which is becoming more and more worrying, Deputy Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu told journalists.
Nyalandu was speaking in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, which will host starting Monday what is billed as the first Pan-African conference on sustainable tourism in national parks and which, according to the organisers, will attract delegates from most African countries.
"We're not going to sell smuggled ivory. We want to sell ivory from elephants that died of natural causes," the minister said, noting that Tanzania has more than 137 tonnes of ivory stockpiled.
Elephant poaching levels are the worst in a decade and recorded ivory seizures at their highest since 1989, according to a report in June by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
An earlier bid by Tanzania to get authorisation to sell 80.5 tonnes of ivory in 2010 was rejected by a CITES meeting.
Most nations that have signed up to CITES, including Tanzania's neighbour Kenya, opposed Tanzania's plan, fearing that it would boost poaching rather than empower Tanzania to crack down on it.
"This time round we want full backing from Kenya for we absolutely have to acquire the means to face up to poaching," Nyalandu said.
In 2007 CITES agreed to a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory. The following year Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allowed to make a one-off sale of ivory to China and Japan.
The surge in ivory seizures that followed the 2008 sale has led officials to question whether one-off sales stimulate illegal trade rather than stem it as was once thought.© ANP/AFP