Why Tanzania lays bare its ivory stockpile in a documentary film

The government vows that the tusks are here to stay

SATURDAY April 30, 2022

An elephant walks inside the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. PHOTO | AP

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Tanzania will neither set on fire nor sell its over 100 tonnes of ivory stockpile, the country’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has reiterated.

The government would instead continue keeping the ivory stockpile to remind Tanzanians and the world at large on the crimes committed in the past against wildlife animals and Mother Nature.

Tanzania wished to sell the $55 million worth ivory stockpiles to China and Japan in 2012 to raise money the country needed for conservation activities.

Owing to stiff opposition from conservation groups and anti-crime lobbies, the government withdrew its bid ahead of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok in March 2013.

Tanzania’s ivory stockpile. The country has not agreed to burn its stockpile of ivory, it asked CITES for an exception to the ivory ban for  a sale, with proceeds used only for conservation efforts, but it withdrew its request in early 2013. PHOTO | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Anti-poachers argued that such a large volume of ivory, made suddenly available on the global market, would send all the wrong signals and further embolden illegal trade, smuggling, and poaching.

“We see this [withdrawal] as a positive move that will inspire others to invest more on wildlife protection. It would have meant far more problems for Tanzania and its wildlife,” Mr Saidi Katensi, the CEO of African Wildlife Service of Tanzania then was quoted as saying.

President Samia reiterated during the launching of the Tanzania Royal Tour documentary film in Arusha, the Tanzania’s tourism hub, saying keeping the ivory would show the world that whatever business was done through the elephant tusks and rhino horns was inappropriate, as it wiped out the wildlife endowment.

While Tanzania continues keeping its ivory stockpile to date, Kenya, its northern neighbour, set on fire 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and over 1 tonne of rhino horns in 2016, believed to be the largest stockpile to be destroyed.

The stacks of tusks valued at $150 million represented over 8,000 elephants and some 343 rhinos slaughtered for their ivory and horns, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Firemen stand by as pyres of ivory are set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, on Saturday April 30, 2016. Kenya set on fire 105 tonnes of elephant tusks and over one tonne of rhino horns. PHOTO | AP

Some critics poked holes on the burning of the ivory, contending that it demonstrated that jumbos and rhinos were not valued and that the move would end up raising prices of the commodity.

“We will burn ivory and we hope every country in the globe will support Kenya and say never again should we trade ivory,” the Kenya Wildlife Service Chairman and renowned paleoanthropologist and conservationist, the late Richard Leakey, said then, as he condemned African countries which advocated for the sale of ivory.

Africa boasted having 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s, but was left with barely 500,000 when poaching severely hit Tanzania, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Documentary film

The documentary film titled, Tanzania: The Royal Tour, is a series of global television events hosted by Peter Greenberg with President Suluhu Hassan as his exceptional guide, exposing the rich nature of her nation’s tourism via her leadership eye.

The documentary film was first premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on April 18, 2022, and at the Paramount Pictures Studios in Loss Angels on April 21, 2022.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassa and US Vice President Kamala Harris address the media at the White House in Washington DC when the two leaders pledged strong ties between Tanzania and the US. President Samia was in the US for a business and diplomatic tour that saw her launch the Tanzania Royal Tour documentary film in New York on April 18, 2022. PHOTO | e-TURBO NEWS

It will also be premiered in Zanzibar, the country’s second tourism hub, on May 7, 2022, and in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital, on the following day.

President Samia said over 300,000 people globally had sent her messages few days after the documentary film was premiered in the US, making her believe eight days she spent on producing it would pay off.

“I became confident that what we did was a good cause for the country,” said President Samia, quipping that critics had nicknamed her Schwarzenegger during the filming process.

“I sometimes got angry, but John Russell Feist (the documentary film producer) kept on pressurising me to repeat an action up to 10 times! But here we are today; we have something to show the world,” she said.

Scores of people who watched the documentary film in New York and Los Angeles expressed their enthusiasm to visit Tanzania to witness the rich cultural and wildlife heritage portrayed in the film.

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan (Left) guides Royal Tour photojournalist Peter Greenberg during the filming of a documentary dubbed Tanzania: The Royal Tour. PHOTO | ROAM WILD ADVENTURE

“If we talk of a real sterling in the documentary film, it is all Tanzanians who made it possible,” said President Samia as she extended her gratitude to members of the business community and ordinary Tanzanians for contributing funds for the production of the film.

She believed the most interesting part of the documentary film to Tanzanians would be a huge warehouse laden with elephants tusks and rhino horns impounded years ago.

Tourism recovery

Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism used to create 1.3 million jobs, and to generate $2.6 billion annually, equivalent to 18 per cent of the Tanzania’s gross domestic product.

As a result of the pandemic, tourist arrivals to the country nosedived from 1.3 million in 2019 to about 600,000 in 2020 and 900,000 in 2021.

The Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry received $3.8 million, equivalent to 6.9 per cent of the total $559 million IMF emergency financial assistance to support Tanzania’s efforts in combating the pandemicΩ

Tanzania introduced COVID-19 samples collection centre within the wilderness of Serengeti National Park. PHOTO | FILE

MORE INFORMATION: Tourism attractions

Tanzania is home to some of Africa’s most famous national parks and natural attractions, including majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Consequently, the most popular things to do in Tanzania and the reason many people visit the country, are the safaris and wildlife-related adventures. Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak (5,895 m) and Tanzania’s most iconic image. A World Heritage Site, Kilimanjaro was formed over 1 million years ago by volcanic movement along the Rift Valley. Three volcanic cones – Shira, Kibo, and Mawenzi – came to be about 750,000 years ago. The highest point is Uhuru Peak on Kibo, which is one of the Seven Summits of the world.Unlike other parks in northern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is not visited for the wildlife but for the chance to stand in awe of this beautiful snow-capped mountain and, for many, to climb to the summit.The mountain rises from farmland on the lower level to rainforest and alpine meadow and then barren lunar landscape at the peaks. The slopes of the rainforest are home to buffaloes, leopards, monkeys, elephants and eland. The alpine zone is where bird watchers will find an abundance of birds of prey.Serengeti National Park is a vast treeless plain with millions of animals living here or passing through in search of fresh grasslands. It is mostly famous for the annual wildebeest migration but you can also see the Big Five here, and nearly 500 species of birds have been recorded on the Serengeti.As the second largest national park in Tanzania, the Serengeti attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year. The best months for wildlife viewing in Serengeti are between June and September. The wet season is from March to May, with the coldest period from June to October.The annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle takes place in May or early June. This migration is one of the most impressive natural events and the primary draw for many tourists.Tarangire National Park, established in 1970, is a fantastic area for wildlife viewing. It is best visited in the dry season from July to September when the animals gather along the river.During the dry season, Tarangire has one of the highest concentrations of migratory wildlife. Wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the lagoons. The park is also known for its large population of elephants, and the baobab trees that dot the grassy landscape.Tarangire is excellent for birdwatching, with more than 300 species recorded in the park. These species include buzzards, vultures, herons, storks, kites, falcons and eaglesΩ

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