The whole world should be congratulating the Chinese on their ban on the Ivory curving. It’s a huge step in the long march to wildlife resource security. Nothing should take away from the importance and timeliness of this action. But let’s remember, it’s a victory. But it’s not THE victory. It’s one of the many tasks that need to be achieved if we are to meet our responsibilities to our natural heritage.
Many more still need to be identified, addressed and the defeated.
Even the Chinese ban itself comes with its grain of salt. Let’s not imagine a governmental ban is going to stop demand. Stopping Chinese demand may start with a ban but with ivory’s deep cultural roots we can expect to time the effect of the ban in generations. As we know the Chinese market is supplied by Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian intermediaries. These conduits are underground syndicates, so the black market relationships are already in place and won’t be handing over a lucrative trade without a struggle.
If you look at the issues the other way through the telescope the challenges to a definitive victory are still substantial. They key point at present is that we keep the pedal to the metal. There was an Ivory poaching crisis in the eighties which was “defeated”, but the underlying issues of the crisis were not addressed and the present emergency is born from those aborted efforts.
In Tanzania, we have seen giant steps forward in law enforcement, particularly of the focused targeted type. In the field of surveillance key technologies such as drones are only now becoming available. They need to be deployed, assessed and incorporated in the matrix. Critically, rangers and ranger forces need to be trained and their institutions strengthened to align their efforts.
Most critically of all, rural populations need to be convinced of the value of wildlife conservation and wildlife conservation made part of their vision of a better future. This a difficult but feasible goal that will require the law enforcement and development sectors to dialogue, interact and find common ground.
Getting all these elements in place, across a country like Tanzania, or across the many African nations affected by the poaching crisis, is a huge task. To look at the reality, addressing the full agenda is only just beginning. From now forward we won’t be able to drop our guard – We can’t do what they did in the eighties. If wildlife is to be protected for future generations the full set measures need to be in place . . . in perpetuity.
The Chinese ivory curving ban is to be celebrated. Let’s just make sure it encourages us to complete the job and not take our eye off the goal of safe and protected wildlife for all our futures.