A quick reminder of the facts: Tanzania lost 60% of their elephants in the last 5 years; Central Africa, 64% in 10 years. Although market prices for ivory have halved, the demand for ivory, driven by the rising middle class in Asia, continues unabated. How is the ivory getting there? Mostly through the insanely busy port of Mombasa- one of the key mouths of trade for the continent. Neighbouring land-locked countries are channelling the tusks there by road, unfortunately with relative ease, and successfully loaded into cargo holds. From 2009-14, 170 tonnes of ivory were seized by international authorities. That’s 230,000 elephants.
Although Kenya has made the trade illegal, the ivory is still getting through. Why? A much-avoided issue, and obviously so, in bilateral and multilateral dialogue is this: corruption.
It’s there, it exists and it takes decades for it to trickle out of a government’s way of operating. While the policy is in place, weak governance creates a whole lot of gaps in implementation- gaps that act like wide open doors for the mass movement of tusks and surely keeps the trade alive.
If we wish to halt the trade, we need to halt corruption. Many countries have shown positive results in the pursuit. Sadly, it takes a long time, usually a few changes of office. Perhaps this won’t happen fast enough before the elephants vanish altogether.