Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Members

At the outset permit me to thank you for holding these hearings and for inviting us to add ourvoice to your effort to strengthen “the effectiveness of New York’s restriction on the sale of ivory”.

It has rightly been stated that elephants – the largest remaining land mammal on earth – are today facing one of the greatest crises to hit the species in generations as a result of a dramatic rise in poaching for their ivory. Efforts such as those being expended by this Committee and the State Assembly are important and necessary in our global effort to save the African elephant population from extinction. The scale of the problem is such that the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, in September 2013 at the United Nations, here in the city, called for the international community to close down ivory markets.

In my country, the slaughter of elephants and the seizure of illegal ivory have soared in the recent past. Voracious markets, particularly in Asia, coupled with under-resourced and under-equipped wild life protection units have placed elephant herds at risk throughout Africa. We testify to the fact that illegal trade in ivory is having a devastating impact on the elephant population in the continent. It also possesses a threat to people, as poachers are gun down families and even game wardens.

According to a recent report by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 22,000 elephants were killed in 2012 compared to 25,000 that were killed in 2011. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) estimates that 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa. It is troubling to note that most of the slaughter is happening in Tanzania and in neighboring Kenya, which like my country is also a source and transit State for ivory smuggled from landlocked countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, including those countries afflicted by conflicts. The illicit ivory is mostly destined to black markets in Asia where it is deemed as “white gold”.

At the African Elephant Summit held early last December 2013, it was observed that current elephant poaching in Africa remains too high and could lead to extinctions if the present killing rates are not reversed. Incidentally, the high poaching levels are mirrored by the ivory trafficking figures as tracked by CITES.

These circumstances call for urgent and resolute actions at national, regional and international levels to combat the flourishing wildlife trafficking. In addition, they demand a multidimensional approach ranging from law enforcement, advocacy, and stringent trade measures at all levels to curb illicit trade in ivory. They also require investments in, and transfers of, relevant technologies and knowledge on conservation of endangered wildlife.

Last year, during his visit to the United Republic of Tanzania, President Obama characterized wild life trafficking as “an international crisis that continues to escalate”. The President committed the cooperation of the United States with Africa in combating the criminality. Consequently, his Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, commits, in appropriate cases and upon request, to assist those government experiencing wildlife trafficking. Tanzania has sought such support with a view to strengthening our own enforcement mechanisms to stop poaching and arrest the illicit trade.

What is it that Tanzania is doing? We have in place a policy and legal framework for protecting wildlife in the country, namely the Wildlife Act of 2009 together with its Regulations and subsidiary legislations and the Wildlife Policy of Tanzania. However, in spite of this framework, the country is experiencing a rise in poaching incidents that have drastically reduced our elephant population.  In light of this extraordinary situation, the Government resorted to unprecedented measures by launching a countrywide special anti-poaching operation last October 2013.

The operation apprehended 1,030 suspects together with a cache of around 1,600 military and civilian weapons. It also captured huge ivory stockpiles, including those that had reached seaports for shipment to foreign destinations. Some suspects have been arraigned in court while investigation is pending for others. The second phase of this operation will commence soon to address continuing poaching which in the month of December 2013 alone claimed the lives of over 60 elephants. The fight must continue as long as the danger persists, and it does!

 Our interventions must aim at stopping the massacres being perpetrated against elephants and other endangered species. We must deploy all means at our disposal to achieve the objective. We need to undertake more vigorous aerial surveillance, putting to use the technologies at our disposal such as satellite and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). We need to scale up elephant tagging and strengthen game rangers patrols. Most critically, we must scale up public sensitization to participate and assume ownership and leadership in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We believe international assistance is vital in enabling African countries to save their endangered wildlife, which is a common human heritage.

We applaud the recent move by the United States to destroy 6 tons of ivory seized over 25 years. This move sends a clear message to the criminal gangs that international resolve to stump the illicit trade is firm and growing. We have seen similar actions by some Asian countries, namely China and the Philippine as well as in Africa.

 I must also say that in our view, we also need to address the underlying causes of illicit trade in ivory. Poverty is among the chief drivers of the illicit trade. It exposes the poor to criminal networks that exploits the natural resources of the continent, fueling conflicts and instability to feed the ever-growing demand for ivory in global markets. Needless to say, poor governance and political instability is another contributing factor. Organized criminals flourish in places with fragile or non-existent government institutions as witnessed in some conflict and post-conflict countries in the continent. It is therefore imperative that we must also forge broader effort to address the root causes of such instability, including through the support of institutions, rule of law and enforcements mechanisms.

Finally, we must enhance our efforts to combating trans-national organized crime. Wildlife trafficking is increasingly associated with rebel and terrorist groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda terrorist cell in East Africa. The cocktail of poverty, anarchy and trans-national organized crime is extremely explosive and destructive. Groups such Al Shabaab should not be allowed to mutate as they have done in the past decade. These have moved from staging a rebellion in Somalia to engaging in piracy and armed robbery at sea, to supporting armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and now into poaching.  It in this regard that President Kikwete regrettably noted that elephants have become the latest conflict resource. New York City can make a difference in saving elephants.

 In the face of all these challenges that need to be overcome, there are still rays of hope. Today there is expanding international cooperation and growing national awareness and apprehension that is paving way towards improved law enforcement and the reduction of demand for ivory. We owe it to ourselves to do more to curb the disturbing rise in poaching and illegal trade in ivory and other endangered animals. This must be our calling and our destiny in the interest of our common heritage. We see the work of this Committee as an important part of the optimism we hold. We also see your work in enhancing the effectiveness of New York's restrictions on the sale of ivory as yet another reason why we can all claim, We Love New York! I thank you for your kind attention.


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