Tanzania has the third largest elephant population in Africa with about 54,000 elephants while Botswana leads with about 133,000 elephants. Surges in poaching and illegal ivory trade have put African elephant populations at risk. During last year’s CoP17 of CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa, delegates adopted a resolution which recommends the closure of domestic elephant ivory markets worldwide.
January 14th, 2017 marked an important event ‘Walk for Elephants’ organized by the Chinese Embassy and China House in collaboration with the Africa-China Cooperation and Wildlife Conservation which took place in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. The Chinese Ambassador Dr. Youqing gave opening remarks before the start of the five kilometer walk to Sea Cliff for the main event. Tanzania and China together to protect elephants carried the main theme of this spectacular event that brought together 500 people from different backgrounds: students, activists, media and diplomats. The third President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa was the guest of honor accompanied by Mr. Haodong Gou, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy.
One of the panelists from Pams Foundation Mr. Elisifa Ngowi in his contribution, provided a comprehensive brief of his foundation taking part in the fight against illegal trade and training to local communities in Tanzania. He also added that every year tens of thousands of elephants are being killed for their tusk; if we cannot take serious measures we will witness the extinction of our own elephants.
Iris Ho from Humane Society International- the global animal protection organization, was also one of the panelists. She highlighted the work that HSI is doing in animal protection in different countries worldwide. Iris appreciated the efforts of Tanzania government, NGOs, activists and all the people involved in the protection of elephants. She further stated that the event wasn’t a ‘mission complete’ but just the beginning of a greater mission to work together as global unity. She also added that citizens are agents for change in our communities hence we must have to engage them to protect our animals and to protect our elephants.
In his closing remarks President Mkapa acknowledged the initiatives that China has taken to completely ban illegal trade in their country. It is believed that China is the center for ivory market in the world but in March this year, China will officially announce to close any means of illegal trade in the country, he added. Responding to that, Mr. Haodong said China will protect elephants no more killing, no more trading. President Mkapa said wildlife is our heritage, protecting wildlife is to protect our environment and therefore he invited other countries to come together and join their forces against poaching and illegal trade for this generation and the coming generation.
CYNESA Tanzania graced the event with their active participation and engaging in different activities such as the Wildlife Conservation Quiz and signing the petition. A good number of CYNESA members participated in the quiz and all won prizes, it was really good and encouraging! We also had the privileged to have a talk with Iris Ho and she was impressed with our attendance and participation. After the event everyone was happy to be part of the event and promised to impact his or her community. Few days later, on Monday during the morning assembly CYNESA members from Loyola High School who participated in the Walk for Elephant event gave a talk to their fellow students and school staff about what they learnt during the event; everyone was thrilled with their speeches!
By Desdery Moses, CYNESA Tanzania.