The Division of Management Authority of USF&WS stopped issuing elephant trophy import permits for Tanzania at the first of Tanzania’s safari season. The disruption was due to a snafu within the International Affairs Office of USF&WS that went on for more than a year. Elephant trophy import permits are now once again being issued.
Over a year ago the Branch of Permits sent a questionnaire to the Director of the Wildlife Division of Tanzania about the status and management of Tanzania’s elephant. Tanzania filed a thorough and detailed response, but it was lost within the International Division for more than a year. When permits were not forthcoming this spring and early summer, hunters and operators started complaining, as did Tanzania and Conservation Force. A number of hunters were on the verge of canceling their safaris, but we prevailed upon them not to because surely the permits would ultimately be issued. Many believed that import permits were required by Tanzania before a hunting license could be issued, which is a longstanding belief that apparently is not entirely correct. Regardless, those that took their safaris were permitted to hunt. The complaints lead to Tanzania’s response surfacing within USF&WS. The import permits were subsequently issued after the Division of Scientific Authority and Division of Management Authority made their necessary findings of “non-detrimental” under their CITES regulations and “enhancement” under their special elephant trophy ESA regulations.
The incident gave us quite a scare as it was effectively a closure of elephant trophy imports from Tanzania without prior notice or fanfare. It is not the first time responses to elephant questionnaires have been lost within the International Division according to other African wildlife departments. Cameroon, Mozambique and Zambia permits have been denied or delayed for the same exact reason in the past. Likewise, the permit applicants and the foreign wildlife departments did not know of it until complaints were made. There is convincing evidence that responses were sent in each instance and the African authorities produced their early responses in each case.
Second, the International Division has its own self-imposed biological and management criteria for trophy imports of CITES Appendix I listed species like elephant that conflict with CITES Resolutions to facilitate trophy trade. It also has its own self-imposed “enhancement” requirement under the ESA for elephant imports.
The irony of the closure of imports while it lasted is that Tanzania has the second largest and best managed elephant population in the world. The elephant population in surveys conducted in 2006 estimated elephant populations at 141,646, yet the quota is only 200 bulls. That is a great deal larger than the upper limit of 100,600 elephant established as the desirable number in Tanzania’s current Elephant Management Plan of 2001. Tanzania has one of the largest expanses of protected areas of any country in the world, 28 percent of land surface area, and its elephant actually occupy 49 percent of the total land surface. One population in the Selous is the largest in the world and is growing.
The Selous population is increasing at the rate of 5.8 percent while Tanzania’s overall population is increasing at 3.8 percent. As far as enhancement, in 2006 the hunting community raised over one-half million dollars for anti-poaching to protect elephant in Tanzania with the help of Gerard Pasanisi, Past-President George Bush, Dallas Safari Club and others at special fundraisers across the world. Tourist hunting has been one of the accepted pillars of wildlife and habitat conservation in Tanzania for well over 100 years and Tanzania said so in its response. We are indebted to those who came to Conservation Force in time to address the issue early in Tanzania’s hunting season before more harm was done.