Over 50,000 Tanzanians have pledged their support online for the OKOA Tembo wa Tanzania initiative, which calls on the country’s new President to protect and preserve Tanzania’s remaining elephant populations.
At a press conference held in Dar es Salaam , some of the country’s leading conservationists – on behalf of thousands of Tanzanians, and civil society organizations – demanded that President Magufuli protect and preserve Tanzania’s elephants by:
1.arresting and prosecuting the major ivory traders operating in the country
2.using Tanzania’s long-standing friendship with China to close Chinese ivory markets;
and 3.to publicly destroy Tanzania’s ivory stockpile.
Tanzania has lost more than 60% of its elephants over the last five years, from 109,000 in 2009 to 43,000 in 2014 (TAWIRI Census Results 2014), a trend that motivated Tanzania to launch the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) in 2014, along with Botswana, Chad, Gabon and Ethiopia.
— Wagtail UK (@WagtailUK_dogs) November 9, 2015
This first of its kind citizen campaign – coming only 18 months after the EPI was founded – is seen as evidence that Tanzanian civil society is determined that the illegal and unlawful killing of its elephants must end.
The press conference followed an open letter addressed directly to the President, published in the nation’s leading Kiswahili newspaper, calling for an end to the industrial slaughter of the country’s most prized national treasure.
The letter was signed by dozens of prominent Tanzanian citizens, including Prof. J.R. Kideghesho, former Assistant Director of Wildlife for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Mutayoba, Tanzania’s leading elephant expert and winner of the prestigious National Geographic Society Buffet award, and Vanessa Mdee, one of the country’s best known musicians.
“Our leaders already know that the world is looking at Tanzania on the issue of elephant poaching, but they have yet to hear from us citizens united on this issue. That is why we are here today, to demonstrate to the President that Tanzania’s elephants are a matter of national importance.” said Shubert Mwarabu, head of OKOA Tembo wa Tanzania at the press conference.
“We are speaking here on behalf of thousands of Tanzanians who cannot imagine a Tanzania without elephants, and who want to see an end to the killing now. We say to the President: save our elephants. You can bring peace for Tanzania’s elephants and her protected areas, and secure a thriving wildlife tourism industry that benefits all Tanzanians – this can be your legacy.”