After two full months and five separate requests, USFWS finally produced an email and postal letter that it had sent to the Tanzania Minister, Lazaro Nyalandu advising of the suspension and why. The three following paragraphs are the substance of the five paragraph letter. The whole letter can be seen at www.conservationforce.org/pdf/fws_letter_to_minister.pdf. The US Government is gravely concerned about the escalation in poaching activity throughout Tanzania over the past several years, and we have expressed this concern in our CITES findings over the past few years. With new information now showing significant declines in key elephant populations in Tanzania, we are unable to make positive findings required by CITES and the ESA to allow import of elephant trophies taken in Tanzania during calendar year 2014 (see attachments). We recognize that sport-hunting, as part of a sound management program, can provide benefits to the conservation of species. However, because of the rampant elephant poaching in Tanzania, we are concerned that the additional killing of elephants, even if legal, is not sustainable and would not support effective management and community programs that enhance the survival of the species in Tanzania.
We will reevaluate the situation in Tanzania for elephant trophies taken in calendar year 2015 and beyond. When we receive information that indicates a significant improvement for elephants in Tanzania, we will re-consider the import suspension. In order to allow elephant trophies to be imported in the future, documented total offtake from the elephant population (i.e., all sources of elephant deaths, including poaching, sport-hunting, problem animal control, and natural mortality) would need to be below the elephant’s annual population growth rate, requiring the poaching rate to be significantly reduced. We will look to the following sources of information to provide us with this documentation:
• New population census information, demographic surveys, and carcass analyses;
• Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) and Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) reports; and
• Other relevant sources of information.
In addition, in response to the drastic population decline, we hope that the Government of Tanzania will appropriately adjust its quotas downward and take management actions to address the poaching crisis, such as increased capacity for law enforcement. We would appreciate receiving information on how funds generated from the sport-hunting of elephants are used to support the long-term survival of the species. Such support could be in the way of on-the-ground conservation efforts, such as surveys and anti-poaching efforts, or more indirect support through community development projects that can be tied to the benefits that can be generated by maintaining healthy elephant populations.
Although Tanzania’s management can be said to be more up-to-date due to an up-to-date national management plan and elephant population surveys, the undisputed poaching may make it more difficult to re-establish imports than in Zimbabwe where elephant are only on Appendix II. The problem in Tanzania is the documented poaching level which is already coming under control. The elephant population should soon be growing again, and with the conservative quota Tanzania has, the imports re-established.